coming to work with Covid symptoms, including work about a BDSM dungeon in a portfolio, and more

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

1. Are laws encouraging people to come to work with COVID symptoms?

My sister works in a nursing home that had been COVID free for months. They got their first outbreak a few weeks ago and traced it back to a new hire, who came to work after loading up on Tylenol because she had a fever. Her mother, with whom she lived, had tested postitive and she caught it from her mom.

Why would she do something so dumb as to come to work at a nursing home with a fever when her mother tested positive for COVID? Because her employer requires everyone with a fever to stay home unpaid until they get a negative COVID test. And because the city they live in is slow to adopt testing, test results can take 5-7 days. So this young new hire who is trying to pay bills for her family and just got a new job was afraid to call out with a fever because she knew she’d have to spend at minimum five days home, unpaid.

I know in Normal Times this is legal, but I had assumed the CARES Act allowed for people to get paid time off due to COVID. It apparently excludes healthcare workers specifically. This seems outrageous, as healthcare workers are some of the most at-risk to catch and transmit this virus!

Is this right? If so, I can direct my outrage at the government as opposed to her employer. I doubt they are far from the norm in terms of no work/no paid for PRN clinical jobs. I was thinking that even though they were excepted from the CARES Act, they may be at least able to claim unemployment for days not worked due to COVID.

Yeah, this is a thing, and it’s a problem.

You’re thinking of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) rather than the CARES Act (which is the unemployment expansion). FFCRA gives you two weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave if you’re unable to work because you’re quarantined (via a government order or on the advice of a health care provider) and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. But it only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, and your employer can exclude you from it if you’re a health care provider or emergency responder.

But you’re right that people not covered by that law should be eligible for unemployment under CARES — it makes people eligible who aren’t working because they have symptoms or have been advised by a health care provider to quarantine.

You’re also correct that the system has so many exclusions that a lot of sick people will come to work anyway because they can’t risk not getting paid, which is exactly what happened here. And you’re right that it’s particularly troubling that health care workers are one of those exclusions.

2. Getting permission before asking people for references

A friend (my boss) recently resigned from his position and is looking for new work. He has asked me if I believe that he should ask for a job recommendation from the owner of the company. The owner is a micromanager and a dual reporting boss for my friend, and is a bit “upset” about his resignation. I told him to give it time, but he did an amazing job for the company (and gave them four weeks notice of his resignation).

The bigger question is that my friend believes he needs to ask the owner if it’s okay to ask others in the company for their recommendations. I am very confused by this and do not believe he needs permission to request recommendations from colleagues who he has worked with for 7+ years. That sounds way too controlling. These individuals are all senior-level positions and while they are all pretty weak when it comes to standing up to the owner, I would hope that most can find it within themselves to be professionals in their own right. What do I tell him?

He doesn’t need permission from the owner to ask others who work there for recommendations! If the people he asks feel they need the owner’s sign-off, they can decide that on their own and seek it — but as the person requesting the reference, your friend doesn’t need to do that part for them.

There are some situations where a company might not want employees giving references without clearing it with someone else first. For example: let’s say I fire Joe for poor work quality. He worked occasionally with the COO, so he asks her for a recommendation. She figures he’s a nice guy and she didn’t work with him closely enough to see the problems with his work, so she writes him a positive recommendation, figuring it’s a kind thing for someone looking for work. Then Joe sues, alleging that the real reason he was fired was because of his religion — and as part of his case, he points to the recommendation from the COO praising his work. That can undermine the company legally — so in some cases employers do want control over what kind of references are provided.

But that doesn’t sound like the situation here, and even if it were, it would be between your company owner and the people being approached for references. Your friend doesn’t need to seek the owner’s permission himself.

3. Should I include work about a BDSM dungeon in my portfolio?

I am currently in grad school for journalism. Earlier this year, I completed an article for class in which I followed the leaders of a local BDSM dungeon (with their permission) over an extended period of time and looked at the ways that they had adapted to coronavirus, including instituting CDC guidelines at the dungeon’s last pre-quarantine play party and holding weekly Zoom groups over the last few months to discuss a wide variety of philosophical and practical topics about the lifestyle. The content is maybe PG-13 at most.

My professor loved the article, and I’m personally very proud of it as well. It’s easily the most thorough reporting and some of the strongest journalistic writing I’ve ever done, and it was a labor of love. I’m wondering, though, if I should include it as part of my portfolio website. I’m applying for jobs at places that aren’t “alternative,” but the rest of my portfolio website’s content is “lighter,” so to speak. What do you think?

Assuming you’re applying to journalism jobs, go ahead and include it. You let me see the piece, and it’s fascinating, well-written, and in no way overly racy. It’s an article that could appear in a mainstream newspaper. You’re fine.

If you’re applying to jobs outside of journalism, I might worry more about hiring managers thinking, “Huh, why is this the sample she chose in a professional context?” — but journalists get that you’re going to write about a wide range of human behavior, some of it more titillating than others.

4. Employer has been recording all our interviews

I’ve been actively interviewing for jobs the last couple months. As you can imagine, it’s been mostly Zoom or other video chat interviews One company recorded every meeting we had. This felt a little weird to me, but I did not say anything about it.

I’m a little concerned this could be used against me down the road. Will they play it back and say “you said you could do XYZ?” Will they play it back and use the ideas I had or suggestions I made and realize they don’t need me? I’m wondering your thoughts and what you would have said to stop recording if you think that’s the best course of action.

Some companies record virtual interviews so that other people involved in hiring can review interviews without having to attend themselves.

They’re not going to play the recordings back after you’re hired and take you to task for misrepresenting your skills (or if they did, they’d be really weird; that’s a not a thing that normally happens). And if they’re unethical enough to steal your ideas, they can do that without recording you. I wouldn’t worry much about this.

5. A four-month resume gap

On my resume, I have excluded a job from eight years ago that I was at for four months. It was a professional, career-type job, but short-lived for a variety of reasons — not a great fit, big company re-org right after I started, a different (dream) job sort of dropped in my lap. At 15 years into my career, I’ve switched to using years, not months for positions on my resume (Widget Builder 2008-2012, Widget Designer 2012-2017, etc). My question is on how to handle online applications that ask for both a resume file and a job history entry in their interface, with months and years. Do I include the four-month position and have the site’s job history not match my resume? Do I exclude it and make it look like gap in my employment? Do I add it back to my resume? Something else?

Exclude it from both. No one will care about a four-month gap from eight years ago.

{ 566 comments… read them below }

  1. MBK*

    The situation LW1 wrote about gives me fits. It is in absolutely no one’s best interests for paid leave requirements to exclude health care workers. It forces untenable choices, creates perverse incentives to try to fake it and go to work sick, and leads to increased medics and financial risk for several different groups who are already among the highest risk people around.

    1. WS*

      Yes, I work in healthcare (in Australia which has generally good laws about paid leave) and I was surprised to find that casual staff got no coverage at all during the pandemic unless your workplace decided to give it (mine did). My state government has belatedly put up a $300 payment for getting tested and waiting for results, and up to $1500 if you have to quarantine, but they made it hard to access. And everyone’s paying the price for that, since we’re having a second wave rip right through the nursing homes and we’ve gone into Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne and Stage 3 in the rest of the state.

    2. Cantusemyname mybossmightbewatching*

      Heavens, in GENERAL, the nursing home/hospital where I work has a PTO system where you get five weeks of paid time off, but, at most, 3 days A YEAR that you can take off for illness before they start hauling you into offices to “speak with you” about your chronic call outs. They call it speaking with you, and in theory you don’t get written up until after the 4th absence, but my 4th absence ABSOLUTELY lead to a write-up, and one of the absences was for a day when I went home two hours early because there was no work for me to do, and they had wanted me to work less overtime. Another write-up, a week later, was for me coming in late to work when I had spoken to my boss about occasionally coming in later and the final trigger was for coming in half an hour late during a snowstorm in which our interstate was closed! This was at the very earliest moments of the pandemic in the US, when no one really was paying much attention yet, and I am VERY glad that my reaction was to abruptly become very much all-business, yes-sir, no-ma’am with my bosses and punching in very precisely, to the minute, on time and punching out, very precisely, to the minute, on time (in theory we have 7 minutes wiggle room). I still have a job in a toxic hellhole and have been transferred to a different department, but I still have a JOB. I’m signing on a house TODAY, so you can imagine why I wanted to hang onto this job so hard.

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        Your bosses are absolute *sses. You didn’t even “call out” (a stupid way to think about someone not spreading their germs at work anyway), and it seems like they actively approved at least one or two of your “absences”. It’s appalling how we treat staff in general (I’ve had bosses like that) but especially health care staff, who are already way underappreciated for what they do, especially right now. I hope your bosses either get their heads out of their butts or you find a much better job really soon.

      2. Katrinka*

        The healthcare worker in the first letter was new, so she might not have had any PTO accrued.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes, but illnesses don’t care whether a person is a new employee or not. A system that has no way to handle a new employee being ill without penalizing them for it is going to maximize rather than minimize the spread of illness.

      3. Firecat*

        Yeah same here also a US hospital. We get counted as “unexcused” and once that is a certain percentage of your absencses – eg new, younger nurses get penalized after fewer absences, then the penalties start. No bonus, raise, promotions, etc.

        The penalties start earlier though, as there is an extreme culture of “tough it out”. I remember getting a lot of flack for not coming back sooner after my gallbladder surgery. I was out for 2 weeks. On my first day back my boss tells me a story about a coworker who came back after only a day and they had the bariatric ward and they were in charge of baths and then pointedly stared at me.

        My response was basically “how nice for them that they had such a swift recovery!”

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Of all the people who should be prioritized for keeping themselves safe and healthy, healthcare workers should be the first, not the last.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Among the reasons that I feel confident going to work are; we get tested every 14 days for COVID and the results come back in 48 hours, we are screened before starting every shift, mask wearing is mandatory even with minimal contact with residents, a bonus pay of $4 an hour, staff can only work at one site to minimize the spread, and increased visits from the health unit to ensure compliance. As a result there has not been an outbreak at any seniors’ residence in our region since this pandemic started back in March.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Canada. After so many deaths in nursing homes most adopted strict regulations to contain the virus.

    4. Mookie*

      Especially galling because health care workers intersect physical labor and hours already potentially detrimental to THEIR own health with interaction with peers similarly risking their health and close-contact evaluation of and care for people weakened by acute illness, age, or general poor health.

      These are the exact people we otherwise prioritize in public health, ideally reserving for them the most effective PPE and the best testing apparatus available. There is every reason to mitigate skilled caretakers’s risk AND isolate them if potentially exposed to pathogens that may be lethal to their patients or contribute to intra-environment spread AND make sure that doing so when required doesn’t leave them destitute and desperate. Lives depend on the health and availability of essential workers. Luring some out of retirement to bridge the gap for leave of current workers is great, a good solution, but that should never come at the cost of retaining the ones whose fresh experience and training are worth paying a premium for, even at rest. Turnover for techs and nurses, in the US, anyway, was high pre-covid, and one two-part productive response to that was making admin work remote while increasing education and promotion opportunities among pre-existing labor. Rather than lay off well-paid old hands and outsource, this is an opportunity to proceed further on those conservative lines, retaining employees rather than undercutting them.

    5. Librarian1*

      It makes me so angry as a patient, too. I don’t want to get sick from a health care provider!

    6. MassMatt*

      Alison, does the CARES act mandate waiving waiting periods before unemployment starts? My state always had a 1 week period before you were eligible to start collecting, which I think is pretty typical.

      If someone needs to take time off due to quarantine it seems sensible that they should be able to collect immediately. Health care workers especially are vulnerable to multiple exposures so over a year those waiting periods could really add up.

      Which is why they should get paid leave, but here we are.

    7. Mama Bear*

      Same. I have family in lockdown right now, and we were hoping to see them in person soon…but then there was another staff case so the clock resets. I realize that people are concerned about their jobs, but this could literally be life or death for residents. And if adults are doing this to continue to go to work, I guarantee you parents will be doing it and sending kids to school when they reopen. Businesses need to do better with PTO/options or people will keep coming in sick, pandemic or not.

      My company banks 1 week of leave the day you start. There are options even for brand new folks.

    8. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      My partner is in EMT school, about to start work; I’ve got a cough and chest pain, and we both are waiting on test results, but unless they physically cannot do the work, they still have to come in. Not only no paid sick time, they’re not allowed to stay home unpaid.
      Of course, this leads to a bit of a spiral. They’re understaffed for the current situation, so no one’s allowed off, so a ton of people just quite, so they’re even more understaffed, so they even more can’t let people take off…

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      I can’t even imagine it makes sense for businesses from a cost/benefit analysis. A week of pay for these workers is probably like 1-2k right? And then comparing that to the costs that would inevitably be incurred when dealing with an actual breakout? It seems like an obvious choice all around to offer paid leave when someone thinks they may be sick with covid.

    10. Pomona Sprout*

      At their root, practices like this are based on a set of faulty, unspoken premises, including the following:

      1. Everyone is a slacker until proven otherwise.
      2. All employees will leap at the chance to avoid going to work as often as possible (especially if they can do it without losing income).
      3. Taking (paid or unpaid, but especially paid) time off work is a luxury that should be reserved fo as few people as possible, for as few reasons as possible, and as rarely as possible.
      4. Needing to take time time off work for health related reasons is a failing to be punished, rather than something that is a natural part of being human.
      5. Taking time off work (especially paid time off) is a special privilege that should be earned, rather than something all humans need and deserve due to being, you know, human.

      I’m not saying all management in all workplaces with miserly, punitive PTO policies consciously believe all (or any) of these things, but that’s not required for these practices to continue. In many cases, the restrictions have been in place for so long everyone is used to them and takes them for granted.

      This type of toxicity, like all forms of workplace toxicity, is self-perpetuating. Long time employees regard the status quo as “just the way things are.” New hires accept the rules and do their best to abide by them because they want to keep their jobs. Those who realize how unfair the rules are and have other options tend not to stuck around. Those who can’t toe the line for reasons that are not fully under their control (health issues that require more than the allowed number of absences, for example) tend to get fired. And on and on it goes.

      This issue is just one reason why the US needs much better protections for workers. Yes, there are rufic employers who treat their employees well, but there are an awful lot of other employers who treat their workers as poorly as they can get away with. The latter group (most of them anyway) will contuinue their crappy practices as long as they are allowed to do so with impunity. I will stop here, because it’s hard to talk about without getting political, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

      This concludes my soapbox speech for the day. If you’re still reading at this point, thank you for your patience.

  2. Artemesia*

    Of course people will take tylenol and go to work when all that stands between them and not paying rent is doing that. I won’t ride in an uber or cab now for that reason. We in normal times use the bus or train for most travel using the car only when picking up the grandkids from school etc — Now we either walk or drive. If we can’t do one or the other we don’t go. Uber and cab drivers live close to the financial edge and of course they will drive if they can whether they are sick or not and there you are in an enclosed space someone is breathing in all day.

    Until the US has universal health care and reasonable employment support policies during this pandemic people will do just what this caregiver did. And yes excluding health workers from special programs to allow paid leaves is insane.

    1. Lytrel*

      I don’t think it’s “of course people will do this”. Don’t care how poor you are – that is selfish, horrible behavior. Even before the pandemic, I was always so mad at coworkers who came into work sick and got me sick. Selfish ***holes.

      1. saddesklunch*

        If a few days pay is what’s standing between someone and eviction or not feeding their kids most will choose to go to work, and I don’t think that as individuals not in the same situation that we can blame them for that. In that situation people have no good choices. I’m mad too, but I’m mad at our government and our society for failing to protect people and allowing so many to live so close to the edge of complete destitution, and doubly so during a pandemic.

        1. Casper Lives*

          The OP wrote below that there have been 6 deaths in the nursing home and 40 sick staff. I can understand the new hire’s thinking AND blame her for negligent homicide.

          1. Mookie*

            Negligent homicide is a rot that begins at the apex, doling out the kool-aid. Blaming the working stiffs will only make the economic drivers of negligence more hidden and elusive. A great way to encourage the suits to pass the buck is to pursue legislation immunizing them from drafting and enforcing draconian policies that force the ground level to make cruel, pragmatic decisions while retaining for their own selves all plausible deniability when the outcomes reach the light of the day.

            1. Crivens!*

              Thank you. Get mad at the right people, folks: the businesses forcing this to happen and the complete lack of meaningful support for those who need it. Not the people who are trying to avoid homelessness or starvation.

              1. Lytrel*

                I would choose homelessness over killing grandmothers. Even if you’re very down on your luck, you are still a moral human being with choices that effect others. I get tired of treating lower-income people like victims all the time -I want better laws so the world is more fair, but I also believe they are full members of society who can make unselfish decisions.

                1. Crivens!*

                  In a pandemic, homelessness for them and their families may mean death. So again, you are asking people to risk death.

                2. Daffy Duck*

                  You very well may chose to have you and your sick mother be homeless…but it is much easier to say this when you are not in danger.
                  Yes, the healthcare worker chose to mask her symptoms and work so her sick mother and herself would not end up homeless on the streets. That would be a death sentence for her mother, and likely herself if she became significantly sick. Do you think a homeless shelter would admit people with symptoms even if they had room? Hospitals are already streached thin in many areas and don’t want to admit anyone who is still walking. She put the nursing home residents at risk, hoping she didn’t have COVID and that masking, etc. would prevent them from getting sick. She was doing some magical thinking – and hoping – but when all your choices are horrible there are no good outcomes.

                3. Manna*

                  Have you ever been homeless or lived in extreme poverty? If you haven’t, then I don’t think you get to have an opinion about what people in those situations choose to do.

                4. HoHumDrum*

                  I would be really curious to know about your personal experiences with living in poverty, as well as a time you have chosen to sacrifice your immediate health & safety or that of a loved one for the benefit of people you don’t know.

                  I don’t know your life, maybe you’ll have an example that will inspire all of us to consider letting our families go hungry for the greater good. But I will say I’ve always found strong morals are very easy in the abstract.

                5. sequined histories*

                  “I would chose homelessness over killing grandmothers.”

                  The fact that you say this so definitely makes me suspect very strongly that you believe, on a gut level, that you would never, ever be at risk of becoming hopeless. It’s like saying you would throw yourself in front of a bullet to save a random stranger. Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t. Most of us hope we are capable of heroic self-sacrifice, but have the common sense to understand that if we haven’t actually been in the situation, we don’t actually know for sure what we would do.

                  “I’m tired of low-income people being treated like victims.”

                  Well, you must not be living in the United States, then.

                  Because here we don’t treat them like victims, we treat them like easily disposable human garbage.

                6. Librarian1*

                  Lytrel – you don’t know that. Right now, this situation is hypothetical to you. You have no idea what you would do if you were in that situation.

                7. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  When I was a restaurant server I went to work with colds. They were only colds, long before covid.
                  I couldn’t afford to stay home. No benefits and negligible base pay, I had to work to make money. I did not choose homelessness or starvation over spreading a cold, and no one would.
                  If you had actually been in such a survival situation, you would know it’s not so easy to de-prioritize your own survival.

                8. Delphine*

                  I can only imagine that someone who has never even had to consider the possibility of living on the street would make a statement like this.

                9. Nancy*

                  What a about grandfathers? They ok to kill. Just wondering, because no one ever mentions them.

                  Usually when some one breaks out the ‘killing grandmothers’ meme I assume they actually don’t anything useful to say. Have you ever been in a situation where homelessness was a real possibility?

                  Nursing home workers are over worked and underpaid. Most countries did horrible with their nursing home patients, and that’s partly because we ignored the needs of workers.

                10. Luffi*

                  “I would choose homelessness over killing grandmothers.”

                  I can’t take this comment seriously. I mean good lord Captain Hyperbole, take me away.

                  What if the ladies don’t have any grandkids? What about the granddads? Don’t they have any rights?? Won’t someone please think of the granddads and single older ladies!!

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Yep. The US had a lot of options back in January, February, March, and April. We could have not excluded healthcare workers. We could have had a universal pause on rents and mortgages (Italy did that), commercial and residential, and on student and car loans. Give Americans a break from our debt, and we don’t need much cash to afford to stay home. But no, we had to go pumping money into landlords and banks, and blame workers who want a roof over their heads for the spread.

              And now, it’s too late. The politicians have picked their path.

              1. EPLawyer*

                Well landlords have bills to pay too. They still have to pay electrcity, garbage pick up, taxes on the building, not to mention they need to eat too.

                The solution was to pay everyone to stay home. That way money stays circulating in the economy, bills get paid, people can eat. But noooo, tax breaks for corporate jets and fully deductible 3 martini lunches was more important.

                1. Chinook*

                  Canada did a combination of this. Eviction pause went into affect and landlords who wer being affcted could apply for loans/grants/subsidies to help with the short term cost to help ensure the economy didn’t grind to a halt.

                  It will be expensive for future taxpayers, but some of this is in loans, so it will be repaid. I would hope more taxpayer audit will become a priority to catch, and fine, fraudsters. And, for many renters, the missed rent will be paid in future installments as it is merely deferred, not cancelled.

              2. Unpopular Opinion but I Don't Care*

                Landlords often have mortgages to pay. Plus all the other expenses of owning property, such as maintenance and upkeep, property taxes, and insurance. Somebody has to pay for these things, and not everyone is rolling in money. I would think the extra $2400/mo. unemployment supplement in the US would have paid rents and mortgages for many laid-off people. Some folks are using the pandemic as an excuse to be irresponsible and have somebody else pay their bills. There has been a moratorium on evictions, so some people stopped paying rent because they knew they couldn’t be put out. If you can pay but don’t, that is reprehensible and hurts those who have legitimate financial hardship due to the pandemic.

                1. sequined histories*

                  Landlords need their money, but you can’t get blood from a stone. Poor people often forgo food and medication to pay their rent. People know that if they don’t pay up, they will almost certainly lose their housing sooner or later, which can easily create a major life crisis and cause irreparable harm. You offer no hard evidence that “using the pandemic as an excuse” to be irresponsible is the major cause of increased non-payment of rent during the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression—and at time when plenty of reporting and research indicates people are unable to access the unemployment benefits they have earned, to boot!

                  What do imagine is the ratio between the truly hard up and the merely irresponsible? I use the verb “imagine” because you offer no hard data. Honestly, to me it makes it seem like you simply prefer to believe that people are irresponsible instead of poor. Why do you frame the situation in such judgmental terms when you have no actual, concrete basis for making such negative assumptions about people who are struggling to pay their bills right now?

                2. Yorick*

                  Unemployment is a mess now. I have a friend whose unemployment case is behind and she hasn’t received anything despite being eligible, and she likely won’t for several more months. She’ll get it in back pay, but that didn’t do her any good all spring and summer.

            3. Chinook*

              Thisbis why I was so glad tcat the Canadian government moved fast to get money and legislation (like no evictions for a couple of month to give people time to work with landlord – but rent is still owed, just accumulating) out fast and said we will deal with fraudsters and details after the fact. Usually this is horrible fiscal management but, in case wher it is money vs. lives, lives should win out.

              It also turned out to be more fiscally responsible under a single payer health system because ICU beds cost big bucks (and even regular beds cost money), as does overtime for busy hospitals. COVID was going to be expensive to society in general, so I am glad our government chose to spnd the money up front to save lives rather than do nothing and pay it later.

              Honestly, OP has every reason to be angry and the new person is morally responsible for any deaths that are caused by going to work with symptoms. Outbreaks spread like wildfire in these settings as well as cost an emotional and psychological toll on the families as they know loved ones are dieing in isolation.

              2nd in line for moral guilt is an organization that doesn’t prioritize keeping an employee paid who is quarantining and/or doesn’t tell new staff about said policy. This will cost dollars in the long run for the organization as they have to deal with the costs of locking down their facility and the inability to replace sick and dead employees, which will lead to overtime costs on existing employees.

              3rd in line is governments who don’t legislate the above requirements and instead rely on good will, common sense and morality trumping fiscal policies of big business. Laws exist to entice people to do the right thing when it goes against their own short term self interest. That is part of the social compact.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                In the U.S. when they say they’re relying on good will, that means they don’t care how it affects people. They can make lots of laws when it benefits people they care about (like elites and corporations)

            4. Temperance*

              I mean, the person who brought the disease in was brand new. She absolutely is at fault here. She started a job while sick.

              I do think we need more action from the top, but this woman is morally culpable for her shitty actions.

          2. JayNay*

            well if you don’t want people coming in sick, you need to provide PAID sick leave that is easily accessible. Blaming the individual worker is really unfair – blame the nursing home that didn’t institute proper sick leave policy for their workers, and blame the government that doesn’t require employers do so.

            For comparison, in my European country, there are six weeks of paid sick leave per year. Your employer is required by law to pay you during that time. If you continue to be too ill to work afterwards, your health insurance will cover a part of your salary (I believe around 75 percent) for up to a year and a half.

            1. Carry*

              I’m also in a European country with plenty of paid sick leave and I have also had coworkers come to work sick when they shouldn’t, so I don’t think that unavailability of paid sick time is the only factor that causes people to do this. Some people do it because they worry that they are not seen as a “team player” or they think the work isn’t going to get done without them or they are just selfish.

              1. Red lines with wine*

                I bet the frequency of attending work while sick is MUCH lower in Europe than in the US. Of course there are selfish a-holes all over the globe!

              2. Mystery Bookworm*

                I don’t think anyone thinks is the *only* factor, but it’s likely to be a signifiant factor and it’s one we can control over, while there are many others that we can’t.

              3. Towanda*

                If a person doesn’t take sick leave because they don’t want to be seen as not being a “team player,” that’s a company problem, not an individual problem. No company should make people feel like they are letting their team down when they are sick and need a day or two off, and I know a lot of companies who do that.

                1. Ashley*

                  My experience is it isn’t always the company but a manager or co-worker that makes your life miserable if you call out sick.

              4. Observer*

                It’s not the ONLY factor. But that and the fact that many employers WILL find a way to penalize people who take sick leave, are definitely significant drivers of the problem.

              5. Sacred Ground*

                And as someone who lives in a North American country with virtually no useful sick leave for many workers, I submit that you don’t have a clue about what life here is like, what choices people are forced to make and why, and further that you have nothing useful or relevant to say about a problem that you don’t or won’t understand.

              6. Altair*

                Availability of paid sick time would definitely help reduce the incidence of Americans coming to work sick, even if it wouldn’t eliminate every single case. We’ll deal with the edge cases afterwards.

          3. Observer*

            The people I blame, beyond the ridiculous policies in place, are the policy makers at the nursing home. They CLAIM to have policies in place to protect people, but in fact they don’t. They are punishing people for getting tested by making them take a week off unpaid.

            These are people who are living paycheck to paycheck. The fact that people are working sick is NOT a “bu” it’s absolutely a feature.

            What the management wants is for people to come in no matter how they are feeling while still maintaining plausible deniability.

        2. Sickofbeingsick*

          Add into it too that many of the symptoms are also symptoms of other illnesses or might be fairly mild and if you normally work through something like that because you’re unable to take time off, it’s an added level of pressure. If you’re prone to illness or have a bunch of on going health issues you might not notice a symptom as covid and be so used to pushing through so you can save you sick leave.
          I have a heap of stuff going on at the minute health wise, if I’d taken time off every time I’d had a covid symptom, I’d have not worked since March. I’d not have a job.
          I’ve had coughing and itchy eyes on and off since March because I’m highly sensitive to many cleaning products and well, pandemic… Comes and goes depending on exposure.
          Headaches, diarrhea, muscle or joint pain, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue are all symptoms and something I have on and off due to a couple of health issues. Several of them I’d assume something PMS related before I considered Covid.

          1. Feministbookworm*

            Yes, this. My partner gets mild illnesses frequently (including monthly period fevers). When she had an odd fever a couple weeks ago she called off work (she’s in construction) and got a covid test. Combination of testing delays and testing unreliability then kept her out of work, unpaid, for 10 days, despite a negative covid test on day 7. The only reason she could afford this is that my job is work from home. If people have to operate in a system that forces a choice between eating/paying rent and taking strict covid precautions, the result is going to be more illness and death.

            1. Unpopular Opinion but I Don't Care*

              Proper public health practices such as contact tracing and FAST test results would greatly reduce needless quarantining. This country sucks so badly.

          2. Works in IT*

            I’m currently coughing so hard dad is jokingly asking me if I have COVID. I haven’t been near another human being besides my parents for months. Pretty sure this is typical summer allergies, it’s not a dry cough, and I don’t have a fever… but if you were to hear me now, you would not know that. And if I were to get COVID on top of this I would never know (how does a dry cough even manifest when you’re already coughing?)

            1. Towanda*

              I cough a lot too due to acid reflux problems. My husband has even asked if I have Covid (nope, been tested, plus no other symptoms). But I just cough all the time, especially if I eat something acidic or with a lot of spice. I probably sound like I have it to most people around me, but I don’t.

              1. JessaB*

                Cough adjacent asthma here. I hack my lungs out on a regular basis. I don’t get fevers but I feel hot to the touch (surgical menopause and hyperthyroid). People give me the stink eye all the time, they look at me like I’m going to kill them being in the same room. It stinks. But then I wear a mask, I social distance and I get why they’re scared, so I totally got my doctor to give me a note so even though I don’t usually like to tell my business to strangers, I can relieve them of the worry that I might KILL them.

          3. Old and Don’t Care*

            All these responses about everyone’s individual circumstances ignore the fact that the worker was living with someone who had COVID.

        3. Beth Jacobs*

          The OP killed six people. Would you condone someone shooting 6 bank tellers because they didn’t have a different way to feed their kids? You can be mad at the government, society, employer and employee all at the same time.

          1. Mookie*

            You can do that, but in the long and sordid history of Both Sidesing, never once was equivocating wealth and power to no wealth and no power at all life-saving, never did it make the wealthy and powerful any more accountable for their unilateral decision-making and broad exclusion into that decision-making of anyone trying to translate those decisions into policy based on preserving life and minimizing harm.

            You don’t solve an institutional problem by pretending disposable underlings following real and implicit mandates are making ghoulish decisions they don’t even meaningfully profit from.

            1. Crivens!*

              You’re my hero in this post.

              This subthread sure shows the people in power are getting exactly what they want: infighting amongst the peons instead of the blame being placed where it belongs, which is squarely on themselves.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Hot damn, Mookie, you are on fire today. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

            3. Lytrel*

              She was a moral human being who chose to prioritize her financial well-being over the lives of others. Yes, the “system“ could have been more fair, but at the end of the day, she is responsible for her actions.
              She’s not a wild animal or something – she is a human, and I think you dehumanize her by saying she had no choice because of the “system”.

              1. kt*

                The OP said the new hire is supporting a sick mom, if I read it right. So if the new hire was providing food, housing, and care for several other people, is it more morally right for her to sacrifice them? If she’d already missed two rent payments from being out of work, and eviction protection has ceased, and her mom is on dialysis and her kids have been eating poorly, is losing her new job to stay home sick for a maybe-illness the moral answer?

                Glad you’ve got all the easy answers and moral fortitude!

                1. Lalaroo*

                  It’s possible that she would have died or become homeless due to taking five days unpaid, but it’s really unlikely. So the real balance is: five more days unpaid vs. putting elderly people at risk of death. You truly made up all the other stuff. Also, hope you’d still feel just as thrilled about her choice to come to work and get old people sick if it was your parent in that nursing home!

              2. Can't Sit Still*

                Her choices were to die or potentially kill other people. If she didn’t go to work, she would certainly starve, and if she went to work, she might not have kill anyone. If you live in the US, don’t pretend you haven’t rolled those dice before, because everyone who lives here has. If you don’t live in the US, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

                1. Avasarala*

                  Uh….. not everyone who lives in the US has been on the edge of starvation. Isn’t that disconnect the issue at hand?

                2. Beth Jacobs*

                  The number of Americans that die of starvation every year is around 100, most of those are neglected children. Poverty is a real issue in America, but starvation is not a leading cause of death.

              3. Luffi*

                Lytrel I’m sure she appreciates that you don’t want to dehumanize her, but she’d probably also appreciate it if you could spot her rent for a couple months.

          2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

            This exactly. It is entirely possible to be mad at the person that did a stupid thing, while still acknowledging the forces and actions that put them in the position to have to make the stupid decision in the first place. The actions of either do not excuse the actions of the other.

            Plus, anger is not zero-sum. Just because I’m angry that someone threw a banana cream pie at my head doesn’t mean I’m not equally angry, if not more furious, over the fact that they were told to either hit me with a pie or their house was set on fire. Anger and frustration is a continuum.

            1. BookishMiss*

              One might argue that anger is not pie. Being angry at Thing 1 does not mean you are less angry for Thing 2.

            2. Crivens!*

              What do you suggest someone choosing between going to work sick and becoming homeless do instead?

              1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

                You go to work. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to be angry at you for having done so (as you are endangering people) but I will *also* understand why you’re doing so. Which means that I will be even more angry about the fact that you have to make this decision, and direct the majority of it at the forces that placed you in that position.

                You can have perfectly valid reasons for needing to do a thing, and because of how people are impacted by your actions they have perfectly valid reasons for being angry at you for it. Just because you are right doesn’t mean your actions aren’t harmful. The intent or the reason behind a decision does not excuse the harm that results from it.

                1. HoHumDrum*

                  @Lytrel

                  Ha at “finding a new job”- no one in my area is hiring, they’re still too busy laying their current employees off. Consequently both homeless shelters and food pantries are overrun and short on resources.

                  I think maybe you might not fully understand exactly how few safety nets are functional or available to the average american right now.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @Lytrel

                  The fact that you can say “go homeless for a bit” as if it’s no big deal makes me incredibly worried. People who are homeless are much more likely to be victims of multiple kinds of crime, they’re less likely to have proper access to hygiene and therefore more likely to contract illnesses (there’s an illness going around right now, you may have heard of it), and where I live it’s over 100 degrees even at night, so being homeless also comes with increased risk of heat exhaustion and death.

                  This is not the “no big deal” situation you’re attempting to pass it of as. Please attempt to find some compassion for people in life circumstances that differ from your own.

                3. EventPlannerGal*

                  You are making it really, really difficult to have any sympathy for your arguments here. I don’t even know if homelessness and starvation would necessarily be the inevitable next step here and I’m not sure why we are all assuming that it absolutely must be (there are other possibilities in between) but “going homeless for a bit” is just a deeply inhuman thing to suggest so lightly – have you ever even read about how difficult it is to STOP being homeless once it’s happened to you? How you’re supposed to apply and interview for jobs with no fixed address, limited means of bathing or washing clothes, and all the other hardships of homelessness? I think you need to take a step back and think about what you’re suggesting here.

              2. Carry*

                Where in the letter does it say that this person was at risk of becoming homeless? Commenters seem to be assuming the worst about this person’s financial situation, but we don’t know anything about that. Not everyone in a low paying job is at imminent risk of homelessness and starvation.

                1. kt*

                  CBS News is reporting that 43 million Americans facing eviction in the coming months. That’s about 13% of the population, so it’s really not an unreasonable possibility.

                2. Tuckerman*

                  Even if it’s not a matter of homelessness and starvation- it may mean falling deeper into debt, another few months of driving your kids around in an unsafe car, having to pick up another job to make up for the loss of pay, thus increasing your family’s exposure.

                  These are real, significant problems families face.

                3. HungryLawyer*

                  The majority of US adults are just one paycheck away from financial disaster, such as eviction or homelessness. OP mentions the new hire also lived with her mother, which meant that she likely has to care both for herself and her mom. It’s a fair assumption that a low-paid, new hire at a nursing home (an industry that notoriously exploits underpaid, vulnerable workers) is at financial risk. THAT is why everyone is justifiably assuming the new hire OP wrote about was in a desperate situation. While you’re technically right that “not everyone in a low paying job is at imminent risk of homelessness and starvation,” the vast majority are.

                4. OP1*

                  I don’t know about homelessness specifically, but (now thirdhand) it’s a new hire who is very young with another who has COVID and was out of work. She told other staff she kept coming in because “she needs this job, we have bills to pay.”

                  Infer from that what you like. I do think that regardless of the specifics of this one story, there are a thousand similar stories. It is maddening.

                5. Mystery Bookworm*

                  I think people are arguing a bit hypothetically. There are, unfortunatley, people who are at risk if they take two weeks unpaid. At risk of being homeless, at risk of losing access to funds for medication, at risk for not being able to pay for childcare…and those risks can come with further consequences that could be massive.

                  We can’t know from the letter what the situation is, but we can be angry that people are being forced to make that choice.

                6. HoHumDrum*

                  I’m not even at a low-paying job and I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. I feel homelessness as a very real and pressing threat, right around the corner at all times. Most Americans live much closer to the brink of destruction than any of us like to admit.

                7. Lalaroo*

                  @Tuckerman – all of those are not even remotely horrible enough to justify putting elderly patients at serious risk of death. Really? “Sorry your mom died horribly, I didn’t want to have to drive an unreliable car for a few more months!”

              3. Wake Me When Its Over*

                Sick with covid? You don’t go. This is what Typhoid Mary did, she kept working as a cook because it paid more than doing laundry, spreading typhoid everywhere while she was asymptomatic. She was a single woman and needed to work, but were not her actions reprehensible? Homelessness or potential homelessness can be addresed, death cannot.

                1. HoHumDrum*

                  Interesting, because the moral I was always taught about Typhoid Mary was that she was a great example of how dangerous it was when there was no protection for the poor and no worker”s rights.

                2. Avasarala*

                  She also didn’t have the education (again, poor working class) to understand what it meant to be “asymptomatic”. You can’t really blame her for being confused when people loved her and her food, and authorities wanted to lock her up because she was a “danger to others” even though she’d never been sick in her life. Sounds like witchburning trials if you’re Mary.

          3. Observer*

            No, the employee did not kill anyone. Yes, they put someone in harms way but that’s not the same thing. But, you know people also die if they become homeless or don’t have food etc. So, the policy of the nursing home is essentially what put everyone in harm’s way.

            Also, while they CLAIM they were Covid free, I suspect that that’s not entirely true. Given the policy in place, I would very much suspect that this is not the first person who came in with symptoms. And given the lack of testing, it’s quite possible that cases where people got sick in the home were not recorded as Covid, because who would know?

            1. Casper Lives*

              Yes it is the same thing morally! The elderly are susceptible to death from this virus. The new hire’s mother that they lived with tested positive. The new hire had symptoms she hid to get past health screening checks. His. Symptoms. To knowingly expose the extremely vulnerable to a deadly virus. Complete disregard for human life.

              1. kt*

                You know who has complete disregard for human life? The officials we’re paying with our taxpayer dollars who have failed to provide testing, guidance, and effective leadership on this pandemic. Other countries have managed and they’re made up of humans just like us. Quit pretending this country cares about human life — we’re fine with people dying as long as we can avoid paying for whatever we can. Our leadership has set the tone: we’re happy to kill a few grandparents to ‘keep the economy going’.

                1. Casper Lives*

                  Where did I pretend that this country’s government cares about human life? I’m well aware that’s not the case. With the news coming out, it’s more like the federal government actively hates human life in Democrat-majority states and wants them to die.

                  I’m saying any healthcare worker should care about human life. This person didn’t act like they did.

                  It’s both a systematic issue, where the country’s national laws should provide for healthcare for all, mandated amounts of sick leave and vacation, etc. AND a personal choice to knowingly expose the elderly to a deadly disease that has a high rate of mortality for the elderly.

              2. Wake Me When Its Over*

                Yep, it’s like Typhoid Mary who kept infecting people after she knew she was infectious. She didn’t care.

                1. antigone_ks*

                  It’s not that she didn’t care; she never believed she was infectious. Asymptomatic spread was almost unheard of – the Typhoid Mary case is what literally put it on the map of medical knowledge. She believed that the deaths weren’t caused by her, but that she was being scapegoated because she was an Irish immigrant.

                2. RoseDark*

                  Yeah, I’d suggest doing some research on Typhoid Mary, the actual history and not the legend, before you start throwing her name around. She didn’t believe she was the cause of all the cases, she never believed she was infectious, and the end result of her illness was horrific abuse at the hands of the system.

          4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            We have an entire genre of folk heroes from Robin Hood to Pretty Boy Floyd to John Dillinger that say yes, as a culture we do sometimes condone that.

          5. Sacred Ground*

            There is no mention of six people killed in the letter. OP describes it as their “first outbreak” and reports it was traced to the new hire. Op does not mention that anyone was killed.

            1. Beth Jacobs*

              Do read the OP’s update below. Six have died already and the outbreak isn’t over yet.

        4. Quill*

          Especially in a situation where you don’t always know if you’re ill before you’re contagious. (This did not happen in OP’s case but can easily be the case for your uber driver…)

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            I took the Contact Tracing course and learned people with covid-19 are contagious two days before they have symptoms.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Sone people NEVER get symptoms. This from the National Geographic: “…people who are infected with the coronavirus but never, ever feel sick—make up 40 percent of infections in the United States, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          I have not actually watched the show (or read the book) “Little Fires Everywhere” but for a while I was getting a million ads for it and every time Kerry Washington said “You didn’t make good choices; You had good choices” it really resonated with me. I think that’s a concept a lot of us could stand to think about more often.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            Oof that’s it exactly. In Parasite there is a similar concept expressed- it’s easy to be nice when you can afford to be.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        It’s both.

        Yes, it’s selfish to knowingly bring an infectious disease into a highly vulnerable population.

        But also, if you set up a situation where people have to choose between the above and paying rent and eating, a significant fraction are going to choose food over altruism.

        When you punish people for doing the right thing, you shouldn’t be surprised when people do the wrong thing.

        1. Mongrel*

          “But also, if you set up a situation where people have to choose between the above and paying rent and eating, a significant fraction are going to choose food over altruism.”

          Even here in the UK the lowest rungs of the healthcare system are overworked and underpaid at the best of times and rely on the “everyone pulls together” mentality to guilt anyone who wants to take a sick day.
          I can totally see the conversation being “You can’t come in if you show symptoms but if you miss more than three shifts we’ll have to take action” with some heavy implication on the side.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Yep, especially with a new hire who doesn’t know if they’ll be fired if they miss days.

        2. embertine*

          Agreed. I don’t get paid sick pay at all and if I get COVID or even get exposed to it I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to do.

          1. Wake Me When Its Over*

            The government has failed us. Everyone exposed or diagnosed with covid should get paid sick leave, full-stop.

      3. Hmm...*

        Since when is going to work selfish? Also, for every person like you, there’s another person who thinks people who don’t work through illness are selfish aholes.

        I don’t see the point in shaming people when policies like paid sick leave will definitely encourage safer behavior.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          As recently as last December, when I was still employed, I had plenty of co-workers who boasted of their willingness to push through any symptoms and keep working, never missed a day in 10 years, yadda yadda, working 12 hour shifts driving taxis in a resort city that draws tourists from all over the world.

          The taxi companies in this state, of course, have never provided paid sick days. You can take all the unpaid time you need, but have to provide a doctor’s note after 3 days or lose your shift.

          Now think of what a vector for disease a taxi is, especially when 90% of passengers are from elsewhere and half of them literally just got off the plane. And when this is all over, the companies will go right back to the same policy and the drivers will continue to be pushed, and push each other, to work while contagious.

      4. Scarlet2*

        How nice of you that you “don’t care how poor” other people are when you stand in judgement in your bubble of privilege.
        Forcing people to choose between possible homelessness and coming to work sick during a pandemic is horrible and inhumane, but if you think the problem here lies with the people forced to make that choice, you really don’t have a clue.

      5. Not Australian*

        “Don’t care how poor you are.” Excuse me? We’re talking about people struggling to make rent, feed their families, cover costs of medication etc. – not people who are having to postpone buying their next designer handbag or booking a flight to Tahiti. A little compassion for others wouldn’t go amiss here.

        1. Oh Fiddlesticks*

          You’re misrepresenting what she said. It was part of a complete statement similar to, “No matter how little money people have, they would never do this.”

      6. Mark Roth*

        Yes, it is selfish to come in sick. But…

        No. We cannot really expect people to starve their children to take a day off to keep me from getting sick.

        1. Casper Lives*

          Or…to not bring a horrible disease that disproportionately affects the elderly into a nursing home? OP commented below that 6 residents have died and 40 workers got sick. New hire was hopefully fired anyway, and now has the deaths of 6 people on her conscience forever.

          I’m glad you’re cool with your coworkers showing up with a deadly disease though.

          1. Mr Forklift*

            There’s a big difference between being okay with people working while sick and understanding that people need money to live. Why not get angry at the legislation for blocking healthcare workers’ access to sick leave? This is a systemic problem and systemic problems are not solved by blaming people who suffer under them. Direct your rage in a more productive direction- at the people who actually have the power to change all this.

            1. Casper Lives*

              Or I can do all of the above – “direct my rage” by voting, petitioning, and protesting. Discuss all of the pitfalls of the hastily enacted legislation by a federal government that didn’t listen to epidemiologists. AND, AND, being angry at the new hire. I hope you’re so level headed when one of your family dies from actions like this.

              1. I can only speak Japanese*

                This is like the old cookie simile. There are 30 cookies on the table in a room of 3 people, and the rich guy takes 29, then turns to you and says, “careful, the immigrant will take your cookie!”
                Who do you get mad at for not having enough cookies?

                1. Grapey*

                  I’d get mad at the anonymous person who put all the out the cookies out in one pile to begin with, not the rich guy for having the means to take as many as he was able to.

                  (Just like we’re supposed to get mad at management for not providing temp cover when someone goes on family leave, not the person actually taking the leave)

              2. Observer*

                That’s just not true.

                Energy and outrage is not unlimited. Also, by spouting this nonsense, you provide a lot of cover to the people who keep these problematic policies in place.

                And if find the dismissal of the very real problems and dilemma’s faced by low wage workers to be morally repugnant. But even on the selfish level, you should take a step back. As long as you refuse to understand the impossible choice that is being imposed on people you won’t be able to understand the true risk to you that these policies pose. Because you’ll always think that the problem could be solved EITHER by changing the policies OR be expecting people to do the “right” thing. And that’s just not reasonable or realistic.

              3. Aitch Arr*

                “I hope you’re so level headed when one of your family dies from actions like this.”

                Whoa, party foul.

                1. Casper Lives*

                  Why? My aunt is dying from coronavirus in her nursing home right now. Right flipping NOW! All of these “hypothetical” comments about changing the system doesn’t mean squat if it’s a worker who deliberately hid symptoms and exposed my aunt to coronavirus. My aunt is dead. This person would theoretically be homeless or hungry – we don’t actually know that but everyone has decided it’s true!

                2. Observer*

                  Right. And you know who is to blame? The people who created this mess. The policy makers at all levels. Especially the managers of the home. Because aides should not be pressured to come in sick. Because even if an aide came in sick there is a good chance that if the aid had been provided adequate PPE and its use had been enforce, your aunt would not be near death. But the fact is that the nursing homes DID pressure sick people to come in, while talking a good line in the reverse. And they did NOT provide the PPE they should have.

                  So, I get your fury. But the people who were callously disregarding risk to people’s lives? That’s the nursing home managers.

                  As for the person who might lose their job? Yeah, they might end up dead too.

              4. ceiswyn*

                Are you going to be so level headed when one of your family dies due to being homeless (which increases Covid risks as well, by the way), not being able to afford essential medication, or malnutrition?

                1. Temperance*

                  You’re missing the very real fact that the people most vulnerable to COVID-19, like these nursing home residents, are at the absolute mercy of their caregivers. They can’t protect themselves.

                  So, yeah, expecting someone with symptoms to delay her start date by two weeks isn’t unreasonable. Expecting her to, oh, I don’t know, avoid sick people in anticipation of starting a new job caring for the extremely vulnerable, isn’t unreasonable.

                2. Delphine*

                  @Temperance: And the failure for making that a possibility by paying her lies with management.

          2. Mookie*

            Nobody’s cool with it. Fixating on the people who can’t change the system never changed the system. It’s the people operating within it who are changed. You don’t exactly emerge psychically unscathed after a thirty-year career compromising your ethics to help people only so long as you also disproportionately service the needs of absent owners and executives of care homes, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance companies.

            Why pussyfoot around the obvious solution that is also massively affordable? Cover their leave. All of it. Where’s the outrage for the class that has resisted this on selfishly politically and abstractly financial grounds? No one is going to go bankrupt making health care workers financially secure enough to self-isolate when afflicted or suspect of carrying transmissible pathogens.

            Where is your anger that this wasn’t already a solvable problem solved? Healthcare workers, in the US, anyway, can’t do this alone. It’s insufferable how easily people blame them for a problem all medical professionals saw coming and said so.

            1. EPLawyer*

              This is the real problem. As long as the idea is if we pay people to stay home, they will get lazy and never want to return to work, we will have sick people coming to work because they CANNOT afford to miss any pay. Not as in they can’t have starbucks that week, as in they won’t eat at all that week. Which is also not really good for anyone.

              1. L*

                This. And, since those in power care so much about the economy, they should want people to have enough extra money to buy Starbucks as well.

              2. Chinook*

                And right nwo countries are doing a social experiment to see if people will never return to work if they have a basic income. Canada’s CERB is kne example. Of the 5 people I know who are on it/were on it, all 5 of us are either back at work or looking for work that isn’t there. I personally am applying to go back to teaching as a sub despite the fact that I will probably be covering for someone who is quarantined because a) the older teachers are high risk which leaves room for us younger folks to actually find a job and b) I am bored out of my mind after 4 month and want to feel useful.

                Everyone else I know on CERB appreciates the safety net but want to feel uself and interact with humanity agai .

            2. Casper Lives*

              Why is everyone here assuming I never gave a crap about this before now? I did. I do. I worked as a public defender. I vote and push for healthcare for all as I’m able.

              I’ve also been on the exchange, depended on the care of my family to let us move in as a kid, and eaten ramen noodles and cheesy rice.

              And yet I STILL think this worker did something heinous and horrific. They exposed an extremely vulnerable population to a deadly disease and hid their symptoms thru medication.

              I’m sure I’m biased. After all, my aunt is dying in a nursing home from coronavirus from an unknown cause. It actually affects me.

              Everyone else is here talking about big picture, sympathy for the Typhoid Mary, woe is new hire. I’m here thinking about small picture: new hire has the deaths of 5 people on their conscience. I hope they never forget and they never, ever, get a healthcare job since their care for the patients is 0.

              1. Wünsche*

                I feel for you casper lives. My father and aunt are in a nursing home and so far have not been infected.

                Thats my greatest fear every day that someone will bring the virus into the facility we have been locked out of since march and I will never see them again.

                I am thinking of your aunt and her struggle. *hugs*

              2. Tobias Funke*

                My grandma is in a facility and I’m terrified that someone working there is going to be put in a position to make that choice. And that’s a systemic issue, not an issue of an individual staff twirling their villain mustache and making evil pyramid hands.

              3. Sacred Ground*

                The new hire did what every other worker including health care workers in the US has had to do at one time or another, suck up their symptoms and go to their jobs or lose it, even when they know they really shouldn’t. Hence, the empathy.

                1. Wünsche*

                  But did she do everything she could?

                  Allison tells us to use our words. Had she explained the situation to her supervisor who knows what could have been worked out?

                  Maybe she could have been given an advance on PTO.

                  Maybe she could have worked away from the patients ordering supplies.

                  Maybe she could have switched shifts with Bob and got a 24 hour COVID test.

                  Maybe her supervisor could have given her this week off to get a test and give her OT next week to make up for it. Who knows?

                  What i do know is you are not allowed in the facility with a fever. That is why they test you. And circumventing that process should not be excused.

          3. kt*

            You know, if it happened just once, I’d be on your side.

            But unfortunately, given that it’s happening again and again and again (and I’m married to a healthcare worker):

            How dare that respiratory therapist show up to work sick, to operate ventilators? The hospital is already short-staffed and can’t operate the ventilators it has so COVID patients are not receiving the treatment they need, but she should have stayed home!
            How dare that Tyson foods worker come to sick? Her company told her in March that they’d give her a cash bonus in July if she didn’t miss any work, and re-instituted its pre-pandemic attendance policy in June. Remarkable that so many meatpacking plant workers came to work even while sick, isn’t it. Makes you think there might be something else going on.
            How dare that homeless family come to a shelter when mom was sick? They should have slept outside on the street instead of endangering others by trying to get a place to sleep inside. Yeah, this is not a work analogy — but where does your argument end? (‘I’m glad you’re cool with homeless people showing up with a deadly disease…’?)

            Why are all these thousands of people making this evil free-will choice to come to work sick? Worth thinking about.

          4. JessaB*

            I wonder however, if the new employee had followed all the guidelines, masks, gloves, the works…how much mitigation did they even try, because not just bringing it into the nursing home but potentially bringing it home to mother. Were they provided with PPE before they got onto the site at all?

            1. Observer*

              Well, I also wonder how much mitigation the nursing home was doing. Because this one employee almost certainly did not infect ALL of the people who got sick.

              And we KNOW that lots of healthcare workers are NOT getting enough PPE.

              1. Chinook*

                I disagree. One superspreader can infect. Large number if they use PPE wrong. Think of a little kid with a snotty nose – how many adults does he come in contact with that end up with some type of mark from said kid on their clothing despit seeing what is happenning. A healthy looking spreader doesn’t know they are doing it and we are not even 100% sure of all of covid’s modes of transmission.

                Heck, a few weeks ago one person around here ended up closing down 3 bars for cleaning and sending dozens of people for testing from just one night out. Atleast 6 more cases have so far been connected with them.

                1. Observer*

                  Either way – if they had had decent PPE and used it right – which is TOTALLY on the facility – there is no way there would have been this level of spread.

                  At this point we have very, very solid evidence that wearing PPE and related sanitary precautions DOES work. The fact the so many people got sick is pretty clear evidence that the place was NOT enforcing PPE the way it should have.

                2. Chinook*

                  Available PPE is on the facility, using it right is on the individual. I see too many people with masks sitting below their nose or gloves that are never changed to not make individuals responsible for their actions.

                  Heck. We had campaigns earlier this year reminding peolle to wash their hands, skmething we should have all learned in kindergarten.

                3. Observer*

                  Insuring the PPE is used properly by employees is on the employer. The employer can absolutely make sure that people are wearing their PPE properly. The CHOOSE not to do so.

                  As for hand washing – you are right. It’s insane. And again, it’s on the employer to make sure that employees can and DO use appropriate hygiene. But it’s not really surprising that a lot of people just don’t have that on their radar. While I’d known for a long time that there are public schools where this is not really taken seriously, I didn’t realize how commonplace this is. (or WAS, I hope!)

                  For instance, int the Seattle Public School system, children were actually not allowed to wash their hands before meals – because it takes time away from learning. (Because learning proper hygiene is apparently not important.) That didn’t change when the pandemic hit. They were supposedly working on a new schedule when the school system shut down.

            2. boop the first*

              I also wonder why we’ve been going on for months about people being infectious before showing any symptoms, yet in this specific case, you guys are arguing as if the new hire wasn’t infectious until her fever appeared and she went to work anyway, causing this outrage.

              If she’s been at work for some time before the fever, she’s already spread it, if asymptomatic spread is true. Perhaps that is just another piece of the puzzle that guided her decision making. Perhaps it was already too late.

              Maybe we should cool it a bit on exactly how and when we should demonize the infected. Even those who do isolate after a positive test and do everything right now get to receive death threats from strangers on top of all that because of this narrative we’re crafting about who they are.

            1. Casper Lives*

              Well apparently I’m supposed to sacrifice myself (thru risk of death) for them. I’ve been immune compromised since I was a child. I’m well aware people only think of themselves.

        2. Wake Me When Its Over*

          Hyperbole is not needed. So much food being given away where I live! Yes, the demand is high, but hopefully there is little starvation.

      7. SS Express*

        So many people are just one paycheck away from starvation or even homelessness, and now they’re forced to decide whether that’s worse than contributing to the spread of a pandemic. How much should they sacrifice for a society that isn’t prepared to sacrifice a few hundred dollars for them while they isolate? I can’t even imagine how it would feel to be in that position, but I try to because compassion is free.

        Save your rage for the people who deserve it. Or better yet, focus your energy on providing financial support to people who can’t get paid to isolate so they won’t have to go to work and infect people. I’d be interested to know how much you personally are prepared to sacrifice for the common good.

      8. Mx*

        In this case, it’s the employer who is a selfish ***hole, not the employee. They probably NEED this money.
        If there are deaths in the nursing home as a result, the employer should be sued.
        I work in healthcare. My employer paid me for staying at home 2 weeks after I had been exposed to a flatmate with Covid. If they didn’t paid me, I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent.

        1. Casper Lives*

          Of course the employee is a selfish a-hole. Do they need the money? Probably. It’s a tough situation to be in when you’re not sure you can make rent. That doesn’t mean the employee wasn’t selfish (looking out only for themselves) by coming into work with a very probable positive coronavirus diagnosis. They deliberately lowering the fever so the workplace wouldn’t catch on with a temperature reading. They’re an a-hole for working as caretaker for a vulnerable population and deliberately exposing them.

          Thus: selfish a-hole

          1. Not Australian*

            Have you ever heard the expression ‘between a rock and a hard place’? It means a situation where there are no straightforward choices, and everything you do is wrong – and you will get criticised, and further penalised, whatever decision you make.

            Please try to have a little more compassion for people who find themselves in unbearable situations. Heaven forbid it should ever happen to you, but if it did I’d like to hope people might perhaps cut you a little slack; with that in mind, maybe you could extend them the same courtesy.

            1. EM*

              People in nursing homes are so incredibly vulnerable, and are dependant on careers with whom they must have close physical contact. It is true that the American failure to provide paid leave is horrific but the answer can not simply be: “because this is bad I my only choice is to infect vulnerable people with a contagious deadly disease”. We do not know that this person’s only choice was between staving homelessness and work – we do know, however, that infections of covid in nursing homes will kill people. Governments and employers need to make better policy, but individuals also need to make better choices. This is one of those times when both failed to occur and people died.

              1. EPLawyer*

                Well they also could pay these jobs better so people COULD build up savings. Healthcarers in nursing homes, especially just the “aides” are usually paid minimum wage, with few benefits. They are teetering on the brink at the best of times. Right now, based on what is known about these jobs, they are choosing between spreading a disease that maybe won’t be so bad to someone they aren’t related to, or having their family be out on the street. There are no good choices as someone said above. But the new hire is not a terrible horrible person who should vilified for life for making the choice she did.

                1. JM in England*

                  + 1 trillion!

                  I use a Star Trek analogy and call this a Kobyashi Maru scenario….

                2. Lalaroo*

                  No, this is also a false premise. There’s no evidence anywhere that the new hire would have definitely been out on the street had she not come into work sick. And saying “maybe won’t be so bad” is also downplaying that side of the equation, when nursing homes have been hit the absolute hardest by COVID and have the highest death rates. People are bending over backwards to feel compassion for this new hire, but nobody is having compassion for the elderly patients who are dependent on the altruism and good will of their carers to avoid exposing them to a deadly disease.

              2. Mystery Bookworm*

                The real fault there lies, in my opinion, with how funds are distributed within this field. People are seriously underpaid for what is incredibly taxing work.

                If we want to care for people in nursing homes, we have to care FOR THE PEOPLE that care for the people in nursing homes. On a micro level, the woman in OP’s example may have made a terrible choice, but on a macro level, condeming people like her instead of the system is likely to lead to more deaths and mistreatment.

              3. Sacred Ground*

                “We do not know that this person’s only choice was between staving homelessness and work ”

                We know this person was starting a low-paying entry-level job during an economic depression. It’s a pretty reasonable assumption, as likely as not.

            2. Wake Me When Its Over*

              That compassion ends where possibly infecting my vulnerable 94 year old mother ends. How about some empathy for the nursing home residents, most of whom are weak and highly prone to catching all infections, not just covid.

          2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            No, they may well be being selfish for a reason – that’s not being an asshole. It’s being in a tough place.

          3. pancakes*

            “Probably”! Nearly certainly. There’s a March 22nd NYT article on this subject you should read, titled “She Had to Choose: Her Epileptic Patient or Her 7-Year-Old Daughter.” Home health aides making $15/hr in NYC rely on food stamps even in non-pandemic times because wages have not kept pace with living expenses. Nursing home aides aren’t doing much better. There’s floods of data on wage stagnation and on food insecurity among working people to back this up, yet so many middle class and upper middle class people seem to be entirely unaware of the existence of the problem, let alone the magnitude of it.

            I worked with a woman once, a very sharp lawyer, a partner in the firm, who could not comprehend how or why her mother’s home health aide’s cell phone was shut off for nonpayment. She was shrieking after she got off the phone with the woman one morning after finally making contact with her after several attempts: “I’ve checked and I pay her a standard wage! A good wage even!” As if wage stagnation is not a thing, and as if people who live paycheck to paycheck can somehow pull money for emergency expenses out of thin air while keeping up with all of their basic expenses. Wage stagnation has been a norm in the US for many years for everyone but people with income in the top 10%. The EPI in particular has good analysis of this.

            1. Casper Lives*

              I said “probably” because we don’t know this person or their resources. It’s likely, which is why I say “probably.” But everyone here is quick to defend this person doing something heinous.

          4. Eukomos*

            Sounds like at minimum they were looking out for their mother as well as themselves, that’s hardly selfish. They looked at the certainty of terrible outcomes for their mother vs the non-certain potential of terrible outcomes at work and they made a pretty understandable choice. The vast majority of the fault here is on the nursing home for not offering paid leave and our habit of putting all the blame on individuals for choices that are entirely logical inside of bad systems prevents us from doing the work necessary to change the systems, which is what would ACTUALLY save people.

      9. Harper the Other One*

        What do you expect people to do? This is a genuine question. If you had the choice between going to work with something you’re pretty sure not’s serious, or getting evicted/car repossessed/not eating, what would you do? Keep in mind that many employees, health care workers included, are paid so little on a regular basis that building an emergency fund is nearly impossible.

        In a salaried environment where your pay is not affected by absences, I agree it would be selfish. Most health care roles aren’t salaried, nor are retail and service positions.

        1. HR Bee*

          Except, that’s not the choice she had. The choice was not “oh I probably have a cold” should I go anyways? It was “I more likely than not have COVID-19” should I go anyways? Everyone is leaving out the fact that she lives with someone who is positive and was exhibiting symptoms herself. There is no confusing that with allergies or the common cold. She knew what she most likely had.

          Everyone is also blaming the system, but she was a new hire. Even California, who has the most stringent employee protections, does not offer paid leave for new hires until actual work is completed for certain number of hours.

          I get that this could have been an impossible choice for the new hire, but let’s not pretend it wasn’t as serious as it is.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            “Even California, who has the most stringent employee protections…”

            In the US, which isn’t saying much. California may as well be Somalia compared to European standards.

            And since CA now is the leading state for new infections, maybe (but unlikely) this will change.

      10. Tobias Funke*

        I’m really happy for you that you’ve never been desperate enough to contemplate these choices. Please reconsider your judgment of those who have.

      11. Observer*

        Yes, so selfish and horrible to not want to wind up homeless and with no ability to eat.

        If someone has kids or others who are dependent on them, what do you expect them to do? Tell their kids “sorry, no supper (or breakfast or lunch) for the next three weeks”? Or “sorry, we’re going to have to move into a homeless shelter. I hope we can stay safe.”

        1. HoHumDrum*

          …assuming the homeless shelter even has space at this point. A lot of them are completely full right now, just like many food banks are struggling to meet demand.

          I’m starting to think that not only have people skipped science class they also skipped history and social studies as well. Or, to go with the theme of big picture view: it turns out the constant defunding and degradation of our school system has been more successful than we knew.

      12. Caroline Bowman*

        I’m afraid I live in a place where desperate, grinding poverty and few protections exist and the choice is ”my kids don’t eat when I take a day off for a very slight headache and feeling just a tiny bit iffy”. This would apply to many who work as Uber or Lyft drivers, people in healthcare and others and it is a filthy position for them to be put in.

        I like to think of myself as altruistic and that I’d NEVER do anything like that, but the reality is, most of us would choose food and shelter over possibly-maybe avoiding spreading an illness.

      13. Dust Bunny*

        It’s selfish, horrible behavior to put employees in the position of feeling that they need to do this to survive. The fault is with employers who don’t offer paid sick leave and don’t pay enough for people to build up savings. What the heck else do you expect employees to do?

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My current job offers good insurance and lots of PTO so it’s no longer an issue, but my previous job paid $9 an hour, no benefits (I lost money paying for my own garbage insurance), and if you were sick you had to call around and find your own replacement, only they were just barely staffed enough so there was never anyone available (we weren’t allowed to get overtime, either, so either people had school/other obligations or they couldn’t take your shift without incurring too many hours), and you had to get a doctor’s note. It was *impossible*. So, yeah, everyone came in sick unless they literally couldn’t get out of bed.

          That’s not the employees’ fault: That’s the employer’s fault for being greedy a-holes.

    2. doreen*

      I am not at all sure that universal healthcare or paid leave will solve this particular problem. At one point, 75% of the people at my job were out because they tested positive or had symptoms or because they had been in contact with someone who tested positive. Most of them were out because one particular person continued to come to work until his test results came back positive even though he had symptoms , has good health insurance and my employer provided special paid leave for COVID above the usual sick leave. IOW, being out would have cost him nothing – but still he came to work. But even if there weren’t people like this, healthcare facilities will still have a problem – because while it’s great that people don’t have to choose between staying home to work or feeding their families , the facility will still have to figure out how to handle the staffing issue.

      1. MK*

        You are wrong. When you say something won’t solve a problem and then proceed to point out one case of this solution not working, you are just making excuses for not applying a solution that will at the very least help. Very few serious systemic problems have one simple solution, but just because something won’t completely eliminate the problem doesn’t mean it’s not a solution to it.

        People come to work sick because they cannot afford to take unpaid sick leave; that can be solved very simply by legally mandated paid sick leave. Some do it because they are afraid of the repercussions to their career; that needs a change in culture that is not so easily solved, but it can be done in time by fostering an environment that doesn’t punish people for being sick. There are few that will do it even then because they are workaholics or martyrs or whatever; that’s when a strong stance from management is necessary. It’s disingenuous to say that because people in the last two categories exist, paid sick leave won’t solve the problem. It will solve it to a significant degree and you can take additional measures for the cases it doesn’t cover.

        1. Important Moi*

          “…making excuses for not applying a solution that will at the very least help. Very few serious systemic problems have one simple solution, but just because something won’t completely eliminate the problem doesn’t mean it’s not a solution to it.”

          I just want to say I find your first paragraph brilliant and polite. I will be using it to deal people (well, one person in particular) who offers this deflection. Every. Single. Time. I am so irritated, I literally cannot formulate coherent thoughts to respond.

        2. doreen*

          I don’t recall saying it wouldn’t help and although I mentioned one example, I personally know a number of other people who did the same at other employers. I’m not making excuses , but an awful lot of people ( in general, not just here) seem to be making excuses for the people who show up and work sick ( they don’t have insurance, or they don’t have paid leave, or if they do there’s a work culture that makes them feel there will be career repercussions ) without ever acknowledging that some of those people are showing up at work for precisely the same reasons that people don’t wear masks out in public ( which have nothing to do with sick leave, health insurance or career repercussions)

          And paid sick leave or health insurance still does not even address the issue of staffing – which affects not only hospitals, but emergency services of all types. Sure, my employer can tell people to stay home if they’ve had contact with someone who is positive – how does an ER or an ambulance service do that ? That’s the reason for some of these exemptions – I’m sure that within a few days, every one who works in an ER, ambulance , ICU etc was at least exposed to someone who tested positive. Telling them to stay home until the same rules as other people would have been to essentially shut down those services altogether.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Re: your first paragraph. But is pointing that out necessary here? The letter and answer are specifically about the impact of paid vs. unpaid leave, so it’s reasonable for commentors to be focusing on that.

            A number of comments here seem to have veered off that by specifically condeming the woman in OP’s letter, and people are arguging against that these condemnations miss the point.

        3. Works in IT*

          doreen has a point too.

          I’m not actually sure which is a bigger problem in American society, the lack of paid time off, or the general perception among Americans that taking any time off work, for any reason, is “being lazy”. And requiring paid time off does nothing if using it simply results in your boss deciding you’re “not a team player” and either letting you go or promoting a coworker who comes to work sick instead of you.

          That said, requiring paid time off is at least a first step. The idea that any form of time off work is lazy and wrong has been embedded in this country’s consciousness since the Puritans came over here. Expecting that to change all on its own without incremental progress first is a bit much.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I was going to come here to post the reason health care facilities and first responders are excluded from this legislation re: job protection. There threshold for true quarantine is different from the rest of the working world because they are constantly exposed. If everyone that was in the vicinity of a possible COVID case quarantined, you would have zero workers.

        I can’t remember if I posted this here or on another blog but my husband’s job works with risk management and the dept of public health to identify low risk, medium risk and high risk exposures. Low risk, you get tested but keep working if you are not symptomatic. High risk, you stay home, fully quarantined until test results. I can’t remember medium risk… I think they still work but less public facing or with lower risk populations.

        It really sucks but we don’t have great options for 100% quarantine in a full blown pandemic in emergency industries where there are minimum staffing requirements. There are only so many staff. It’s not like a restaurant where they can just close down . . . although I did hear of one police dept having so many out on high risk quarantine that state and county were covering that town for two weeks. That doesn’t really work for a prison, nursing home or hospital.

        In the OP’s described situation, that would have been a high risk exposure where the employee would have been allowed to stay home.

        I understand the rock and the hard place arguments above and I guess until I have worn those shoes I shouldn’t talk — but I would hope someone would exhaust all social safety net options before exposing a nursing home to COVID. Request food from a food pantry, call a church, call friends and family, call town welfare, call the health department even. Aren’t there towns where the national guard was handing out food to people that couldn’t leave their house?

        1. kt*

          You’re changing the goalposts here: saying that healthcare workers shouldn’t get sick pay *when they’re showing symptoms* because they’re “constantly exposed”. Lord, don’t I know it: I’m married to a healthcare worker who actually treats COVID patients, ok. He’s exposed often, and I live with him because being a single mom is not something I can swing right now and keep my own job. He is as careful as he can be. But if he’s *showing symptoms*, he deserves paid time off!! PAID! He does not deserve to lose his job for doing his job!

          On my Twitter feed and Nextdoor list I have all sorts of people appealing for money to pay the electricity bill, the phone bill, the rent. Churches are tapped out. Friends and family are tapped out, or if they’re in Section 8 housing, it’s *illegal* for them to have a family member come live with them without very special circumstances. I’ve volunteered at one of my local food pantries. The food clears out fast, and families are driving around town every day to get food and formula and diapers, but none of that pays the rent either. Diaper banks are empty.

          43 million Americans are facing eviction in the next few months, said CBS News on Friday. In the next town over from me, we’ve got huge tent cities of homeless folks in the local parks. These are not ‘people who made bad choices’. They’re families where dad worked in food service on a corporate campus and mom was a waitress at a hotel that did a lot of events. Families where single dad worked at a cafe in the airport.

          Go volunteer at *your* local food shelves and then come back to chat about this.

          1. JessaB*

            I’m food insecure due to medical bills, and I have resolutely stayed out of the food pantries I usually use, because I can scrape up enough to buy a loaf of bread and buck bologna (which is my I got nothing back up plan,) and I have neighbours who do not have the five bucks to even do that. I believe that if those of us who can avoid the food banks, or those of us who only take what we need from them and leave the rest, we can extend that resource a little more.

            Nobody is helping with rent where I am and the electric company has a programme but it’s once every two years. We do however have St Vincent dePaul that does electric bills. So that helps.

            Just like the panic buying of toilet paper and alcohol wipes killed supply, people have to realise that things like food banks are finite resources and often depend on the generosity of people who right now just do NOT have the resources to help.

            I do think that on the panic buying, given past incidences of storm driven or illness driven purchasing, the stores waited far too long to limit amounts. We wouldn’t be in the place we are with supplies if they’d stomped on it early. Now I know, I resided in Florida for years and they’re used to “OMG storm coming everyone’s gonna run the stores out of everything, we better limit staple purchases,” but it took a long time for the pendulum to swing to “sorry low supplies only two of these.”

            I remember the first time since the beginning that I saw a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I was so happy they finally got some at all. It did not surprise me that there was a limit on them. There should have been from the beginning.

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            Hi KT – I’m sorry that my post wasn’t clearer. I 100% agree with you that every worker that misses work due to COVID should be paid. I was just trying to explain the legislative intent for excluding health care and first responders from the employment leave protections. I’m not saying that those regulations did enough.

            Also, I do volunteer with the at risk population. Luckily, where I live the services are not as overburdened but I fully understand that is not the case everywhere.

            I hope your husband stays safe!

            1. kt*

              Thanks for your clarification! I know that staffing and quarantine are an issue for health care/first responders. Thanks for your volunteer work, too. :)

        2. Risha*

          I understand your perspective, but. Food banks do wonderful work if your issue is food insecurity, yes (though very few people who haven’t used them realize you’re probably not getting enough from them to actually keep you from going hungry if you don’t have other food sources as well. There are lots of people who are standing in line at _every_ food bank in an extended area every week in an attempt to feed a family).

          But until you’ve lived with no income and no savings left, you don’t realize how much those secondary social nets don’t cover. Food’s just one aspect. If you don’t have friends or family in town that will take you in and you lose your housing, you lose access to basic sanitation. (Have fun peeing at McDonald’s and not showering for days.) Entertainment (the hours get VERY long with nothing to do and your phone eventually gets shut off. You can go to a library – when we’re not in a pandemic – but what do you do with your stuff and pets if you do?). A microwave/stove, cookware, dishes and utensils, can openers to use to open and cook that food you were given, which skews heavily towards ingredients that need cooking due to USDA regulations. Pet food. (Some food banks carry that, bless them.) Heating or (right now, very important) cooling. Where are you getting clean water to stave off heat stroke from the lack of AC? You don’t have a tap anymore, and you’re not buying bottled water with your non-existent income. And so forth.

          1. JessaB*

            It’s not just that food banks don’t fulfill all needs. It’s also that most of the time you also have to have other resources – a working method of cooking (stove, hot plate, microwave,) a way to refrigerate/freeze, containers to put things in.

            A lot of food banks what you get is the modern version of government peanut butter, which is often a large piece of meat that you can cut up and use for more than one thing, and plenty of starches (rice and pasta like crazy, because it keeps and isn’t too hard to cook if you have hot enough water.)

            There are presumptions, some homeless shelters don’t let you have hot plates. Some people don’t have a way to store food. Or a pot to cook in.

            1. Risha*

              I will say, in my experience, if you tell them that you’re homeless, most food banks will skew what they give you as best they can towards non-perishables that need as little cooking and cookware as possible. One even gave me a cheap can opener once.

              1. Observer*

                Sure, the food banks do the best they can. But that’s still not enough, by and large.

              2. JessaB*

                Absolutely, if you have certain needs and you explain them they will do their level best to help, but it’s hard. I mean I could warm a tin of soup over a barrel fire IF I could open the can. One of the things I always wanted to do if I ever had the money was to donate a package that had things like a set of camper’s dishes, a hand can opener, stuff like that so people who don’t have access can do that. I mean our library system in Dayton OH has microwaves and vending machines and water bottle filling stations. They do not complain if an unhoused person comes in and hangs out, even with their pet as long as the pet is controlled. If they had a can opener and a couple of microwave coverable dishes, they could make food there.

        3. Observer*

          Well, guess what – all of the safety net options you talk about are not universally available and may not necessarily be adequate. And when I say adequate, I mean people going legitimately hungry / still winding up homeless.

      3. That'll happen*

        I would blame your workplace for that. They should’ve sent your coworker home while he was awaiting his test results, especially because he was symptomatic. This should be a standard policy, and it’s on your workplace for allowing a symptomatic employee to work.

        1. Librarian1*

          This. I don’t understand why he was allowed to come to work when he was showing symptoms AND the company is offering special sick leave for that exact situation.

        2. doreen*

          Initially, he had a doctor’s note saying that his cough was from a case of bronchitis that he had before COVID was identified in NYC ( which may have been true because I do remember him having the cough for a couple of weeks pre-COVID). But whenever he and his doctor decided he needed testing, he did not inform my employer that he was being tested. He told no one until he received the results. They can’t send him home until he gets his test results if he didn’t tell anyone he was being tested.

          I have to disagree with “it’s on your workplace for allowing a symptomatic employee to work.”. Sure, it’s on them under certain circumstances – but it’s entirely on him under others.

      4. Lynn*

        Perfection (which we shouldn’t expect) should not get in the way of progress.

        Yes, facilities will no longer be able to depend on forcing workers to come in sick when they are staffing, so rethinking staffing will have to be part of the equation for facilities. I don’t see where them having to base staffing on realistic assumptions is not a terrible thing, IMO.

        There will still be the folks who were indoctrinated in the “you don’t call in unless you are dead” mentality or who want to save it for a different purpose (the downside of the combined PTO banks).

        The lack of a perfect solution as a good reason not to implement things that we know will help (leaving aside all of the other reasons why universal health care and paid leave are a good idea)

      5. Observer*

        You know what? We don’t NEED to *completely* solve the problem. But if we cut it even in HALF, we might actually be able to get this thing under control. Because in order to stop a pandemic, you don’t necessarily need to stop ALL transmission – you need to get it to the point where the average transmission rate is below one (ie for every person who gets it, it’s transmitted to less than one person.)

      6. Jaydee*

        Did anyone realize at the time that he was symptomatic and still coming to work? Or was that only discovered later? Because if it was known it seems like management should have told him in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed on-site until he had a negative test and 24-hours without fever plus at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, or whatever the guidelines are/were for a safe return to work.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          As of early July when I took the Contact Tracing course, it was at least 10 days since symptoms started and they have to be improving, and 3 days without a fever or meds to reduce a fever.

      7. Dust Bunny*

        the fact that it can’t be guaranteed to be 100% effective doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to change.

        There are always going to be those jerks who won’t follow the rules, but there are far more people who don’t stay home because they can’t afford to, and it would solve the latter problem quite nicely.

    3. sofar*

      It’s also a huge mess in the food industry. Even major chains that are bragging about giving people “paid leave” do it only once, and, after that, any leave is unpaid. My friend works for a major chain that is doing this. And you need two negative tests to be allowed back.

      She did the right thing and stayed home when her boyfriend tested positive a month ago. But that used up her paid leave. So now, after this, she’s got to take any COVID-related leave unpaid. Tons of workers come in with mild symptoms, hoping it’s allergies or a minor cold, because they can’t afford to take enough time off for two negative tests (tests are taking 7 days to come back in our area).

      But what is also awful is that, if someone who DOES come in eventually tests positive, everyone who worked for them is required to stay home, unpaid. “Vicious cycle” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

      1. Librarian1*

        Yep, this is awful. And thanks for confirming something I’d been wondering about. I remember at the start of all this when a bunch of companies were like “Yeah, we’ll give people 14 days paid leave if they are exposed or quarantine” and thinking “wait, but what if they have to quarantine again? or what if they have to quarantine one time and then get sick later?” And now I know. They are screwed.

        1. Niktike*

          Or what if they’re sick for more than 14 days? There are people who are sick with this for literally months.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        What further complicates this vicious cycle is that people are afraid to get takeout or eat in restaurants knowing there is this risk so that causes the business to cut hours…

  3. Raven*

    Hey all, I was the BDSM dungeon writer. Thank you, Alison, for answering my letter!

    Readers, let me know if you have any questions about the piece :)

      1. Ermintrude*

        I’d love to read it too. Your description and Alison’s endorsement have piqued my interest.

      2. JSPA*

        me too; anything that would work in that setting should make safety in the average workplace a breeze. Unless the kink specifics mean gas masks and full latex bodysuits for all, in which case, yeah, maybe not relevant.

    1. Aphrodite*

      While that lifestyle is of no personal interest to me, I think I’d find that article fascinating. It’s the sort of thing I’d expect to find in The Atlantic or The New Yorker, and I’d plunge right in.

      How did you come up with the idea? Was it difficult to find your reliable sources?

    2. valentine*

      I hope you’re trying to get it published!

      (Assuming you didn’t agree it wouldn’t go past your class.)

    3. ATM*

      I too would be interested in reading it, if that’s something you’re comfortable sharing. That being said, I totally get it if you’re not!

    4. Jackalope*

      Here’s another vote for a link to the article if that’s an option. It sounds really interesting and I’d love to read it if possible!

    5. Bizhiki*

      Adding myself to the would-love-to-read-it list! I guess I have the assumption that because consent and communication are core tenets of practice, people in the community are well-placed to be quite responsive to a public health crisis and conversations around risk tolerance.

    6. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I would compare this to writing an article on human trafficking. It’s an uncomfortable subject and most people don’t understand how easy it is to get ensnared. If you can explain something like that in a straightfoward way, then more power to you! I’d love to read it as well.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        These two things are NOT equivalent. But the fact that the comparison occurs to a lot of people is a good example of why an article like the OP’s would be great.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Part of my job (banking) is looking for signs in our customer base of potential human trafficking and that is not the same as BDSM. I don’t know much about BDSM, but I know enough to know that human trafficking has unwilling victims and BDSM has willing, consenting participants.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I run the department that’s responsible for looking for and reporting suspicious activity, which translates to possible financial crimes, fraud, etc. :)

              1. Leems*

                Hello fellow Financial Crime Compliance professional! I’m the business owner of my firm’s Transaction Monitoring software. I’m sure we’d trade good stories over beer/beverages of your choice.

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  I do the admin for our application, as well as run the department in general (small bank). Crazy world out there, for sure!

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            As someone who has spent a lot of time volunteering in various anti-trafficking organizations, thank you for supporting our work! It’s so so important to have community members aware of the actual signs of exploitation and it encourages me to know that businesses are helping out with that.

            I swear if I see ONE MORE Facebook post about almost getting trafficked in Target…

            1. The Other Dawn*

              A team member at my previous bank (same type of work–suspicious activity investigations) was very nearly a trafficking victim when she first arrived in the US. It was fascinating–and scary–to hear her story. Thankfully she and her friend were able to recognize that something wasn’t right and they got away.

            2. LifeBeforeCorona*

              There was a recent case of human trafficking in my region. A woman was rescued from a apartment building next to one that a friend lives in. People expressed surprise because it is a good neighbourhood. Someone said that human trafficking isn’t always the dingy back room of a sleazy bar. Clients want a clean setting that doesn’t remind them that they are committing a crime. It’s easy to not to see the victim when they are living in a nicely furnished apartment/house.

          2. JSPA*

            I’m pretty sure the point of the comparison from a journalistic standpoint is that, in both cases, the details are uncomfortable for some readers; that many readers will be entirely new to reading about the process from an insider viewpoint; that care must be taken not to seem prurient (for any reason); and also that some outlets are unable or unwilling to publish unredacted details of either one.

            Not that they’re morally equivalent. Nor that trafficking is kinky / titillating. Nor that BDSM is exploitative.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Of course BDSM and human trafficking are not equivalent. I was using it as an example of something that people have superficial knowledge about.

      2. embertine*

        You think that having an interest in consensual BDSM is comparable to human trafficking? That’s.. an unexpected take.

        1. Quill*

          Oh, I’ve come to expect it just by being on the internet long enough… it’s still comically missing the point though.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Human trafficking was used as an example of something that most people aren’t familiar with.

      3. Katrinka*

        “Fifty Shades of Gray” is not an accurate view of the BDSM lifestyle. There are plenty of rules to ensure that everyone is participating of their won free will. Literally no one who is trafficked is there because they want to be.

      4. 7310*

        I don’t think LBC was comparing the two-just highlighting that both are uncomfortable subjects that need to be discussed more.

        1. Jack Be Nimble*

          Is BDSM an “uncomfortable”
          subject,” though? I totally respect preferring not to talk about sex in professional contexts, but I’m pretty used to “uncomfortable subject” being euphemistic for things like sexual harassment, income inequality, and discrimination (that is, really bad things that are difficult to talk about).

          Consensual sexual acts just don’t fall under that same umbrella, even if you don’t want to discuss them at work. BDSM should only be an uncomfortable subject if you’d also describe procreative, within-the-bonds-of-matrimony sex as an uncomfortable subject.

          1. Apfelgail*

            I have to say… BDSM and open relationships have been pretty great for a number of my friends. Largely because it gave them a framework and a model for honest, open communication about consent and stuff like STIs. It has actually transferred well to life in the COVID era, since they’re already used to talking about risks, what is and isn’t OK, and sharing info like, a partner’s partner tested positive for X, everyone else needs to get tested or be on the lookout for X within their circles. At best, it’s informal contact tracing without stigma.

            1. Annie, Ms. Nymous if you're nasty*

              Oh MY yes. As polyamorous people, my partner and I take GREAT joy in watching monogamous people learn to navigate talking about their feelings, negotiating what levels of safety they are and aren’t comfortable with, etc. I feel we should volunteer our experience but, just like in other circumstances, every relationship is different.

          2. 7310*

            Second paragraph is where I am coming from…I was not raised in an environment where sex was discussed openly despite being given really good resources and well educated on the subject. It has taken a long time to get comfortable with the topic.

          3. Jackalope*

            “Uncomfortable subjects” are something you don’t feel comfortable discussing either with a general audience or with the person you’re talking to at the time. It doesn’t have to be something bad; it could just be that you don’t like discussing whatever the topic is. I find that most sexuality conversations seem to be that way for many people. Even something that I would think is innocuous, like a good non-work friend asking me, “So, are you and your husband going to have kids?” and me responding, “Well, we’ll see, but the trying is sure fun!” can make people really uncomfortable, even though I KNOW that they know where those kids they were asking about would come from. (For that matter, other topics regarding things like bodily fluid can be uncomfortable even if it’s not a bad thing, for example, “Oh, this is great; I’ve been nothing but mucus the last few days but now the antibiotics are finally clearing up that sinus infection!” is not comfortable for some people even though it’s a net positive that the person is describing.)

            I will also add from my perspective that… I grew up in a place and local mini-culture that was incredibly patriarchal and had horrible things to say about things like wives submitting to their husbands in all things, that domestic violence is her fault because she didn’t submit enough, that marital rape is not a thing because once she’s married she no longer has the right to say no, etc. I saw the consequences of this in the lives of people around me, sometimes in horrible ways. I know that BDSM is not the same; I have some friends who are into it, and I support them and will encourage them as I can. I continue reading about it to try and remind myself that this is something completely different. That being said, I am never going to be fully comfortable with that sort of power dynamic in a romantic relationship (or any other kind of relationship), because my upbringing taught me a lot of terrible things about having that sort of power imbalance. So it doesn’t have the same emotional resonance for me that, say, an egalitarian romantic relationship does. That doesn’t have to be the issue of someone in the BDSM community, but that still is how it hits me when I hear about it.

            1. Altair*

              I grew up in a fairly similarly patriarchal culture (I was raised in a fundamentalist church) and I was taught all the horrible things you describe. I hear you.

              What I learned from BDSM was actually the antidote to all that poisonous misogyny. I learned to consciously consider and discuss what I personally wanted and that other people actually had an obligation to listen to me. Not necessarily agree, but listen. That I was worth hearing. BDSM was actually where I learned about consent.

              So there’s that.

              1. JSPA*

                Unless you’re talking about potential play partners (which I hope you are and kinda assume you are), nobody has an obligation to listen to just about anyone else. Not the neighbor who wants to tell you how to grow your lawn, not the other neighbor who wants to tell you what turns them on.

                1. Altair*

                  Context. Or, yes, I was talking about potential play partners and romantic partners. I was talking about this in the context of having been taught that women get no say in how our romantic relationships go (if we’re beaten we deserve it, marital rape doesn’t exist because getting married means we no longer have the right to say no, and other horrors Jackalope cites that I also remember) and that it was BDSM that taught me that *everyone* gets a say in how their relationships go, including we women. I was talking about this to counter the idea that BDSM is about oppressing or silencing women or disregarding our consent. No lawns were harmed.

                2. Altair*

                  Context, ffs. Yes, I was talking about potential play, and romantic, partners. I was talking about how I was also taught the horrible ideas Jackalope cites, that women have no say in how our relationships go, that we have to submit to abuse. And I was talking about how it was in BDSM that I found the antidote to those misogynist teachings, concepts of consent and clear negotiation, the idea that everyone gets a say in how their relationships go, even we women. I was talking about this to counter the idea that BDSM is about silencing and hurting women, about disregarding our consent — I found it to be the opposite. No lawns were harmed.

                3. Jackalope*

                  “No lawns were harmed”… This is my favorite quote of the day!

                  (And thank you for sharing your experiences. That’s part of why I keep pushing myself to read about this despite my past experiences. I know that what I was taught is very different from the world of BDSM, and it’s helpful to have reminders about that.)

            2. Altair*

              The thread ended below (after my weird comment double-post, that was strange) but I wanted to say I’m glad my comments were useful. :)

          4. LifeBeforeCorona*

            I’m very familiar with BDSM and it’s world’s away from Fifty Shades. At the same time, I never discuss BDSM with other people unless I know their views on it. However, Fergus can mention that he and his partner had a lovely romantic evening. Jane really can’t say that they spent the evening restraining and flogging their partner. For many people it is “uncomfortable” and yes, some subjects should not be. Domestic violence, child abuse, harrassement, discrimination are all things that make some people “uncomfortable.” But that doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. Well written and researched articles about these issues helps to bring them forward so they don’t remain hidden behind “that’s something we don’t talk about.”

          5. JSPA*

            There’s no “should” to comfort levels with any sort of sex. People have the right to be as turned on, as turned off, as interested or as uninterested as they might happen to be.

            One should respect other people’s right to search out and enjoy and be happy about the sex and the relationships (or non-relationships) that work for them. But one is under no obligation at all to engage with the details. Whether at work or at home or anyplace else.

            That’s true whether it’s vanilla, cis-het and monogomous, or any other combination.

            If you don’t want to write for only the people who are already comfortable with a certain scene, or wish to be, you have to write with the knowledge that plenty of people find many sort of sex intrinsically gross and unpleasant, and the vast majority of people have at least some versions of sexual activity stressful or upsetting to contemplate–even if they are 100% supportive of people doing whatever it is they want to do.

            1. Altair*

              Isn’t it a person’s responsibility to look at an article clearly titled “about BDSM” and decide not to read it, rather than reading it and then loudly complaining about how horrified they are at this intrinsically gross and unpleasant content?

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                The context of this letter is different in one key way: As *job application* materials, someone might be assigned to read it.
                Newspaper or magazine, they can skip that. I think Alison’s distinction that journalism applications are different was a helpful one. Journalists are often in the job of telling the uncomfortable things.

        2. Eukomos*

          They used the word “ensnared,” though. That’s not an appropriate description for getting into a healthy BDSM relationship or community.

      5. Altair*

        Ensnared? What the what?

        While we wait for Raven to sell her awesome article so we can read it, let me recommend _Screw the Roses, Send Me The Thorns_ off the top of my head as a book which candidly explains what BDSM is and isn’t, and as an antidote to the pernicious idea that _50 Shades of Gray_ is some kind of documentary.

          1. Altair*

            I am greatly relieved! (No sarcasm. You would not believe the flamewars I’ve been in about BDSM and feminism and choice.)

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              I’ve also had the discussion that you can’t be a feminist and participate in BDSM. BDSM is about fully informed consent with clear boundaries and both parties having the option of calling for a full stop at any time. Everything is discussed and negotiated before any activity. BDSM is one place where you can use your voice to be heard and listened to.

    7. Harper the Other One*

      It sounds fascinating and I’d also love to read it if you’re willing to share!

    8. No Tribble At All*

      Congrats, Raven, for being the first (probably?) letter-writer to be told yes you CAN include something BDSM-related in your job search materials!!

      1. Beehoppy*

        I’m sure she could remove her name/school/etc from her piece. Since it hasn’t been published I dont know how anyone could trace it to her.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        Is that inherently rude? People have done that here before, and it’s not as if anyone is demanding that she do it. It may be nice for her to see the amount of interest people have in her work.

        I’m geniunely asking here – there might be some internet etiquette rule I’m unaware of.

        1. Jackalope*

          Don’t want you to lose the option to earn money for your work, but perhaps then if you DO publish it you could send the link to Alison for part of an update?

          1. Raven*

            I think that’s actually what I plan on doing. I genuinely did not expect this much of a response, but I’m super excited about it!

      3. MBK*

        That angle of it honestly hadn’t occurred to me, and neither had the idea (express by Alison below) that the piece still hadn’t been published.

      4. Starbuck*

        How is it a dox if they’ve published it already? There’s nothing in their question that provides identifying details, so if the article is out there online it’s hard to see what the harm is. But luckily OP is free to just say no.

        1. Starbuck*

          Never mind, forgot that it was for a class and so likely unpublished. Hope it’s published someday!

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          It looks like it was for a class, not the student paper. So on the web. it exists only on her portfolio website, which might not be accessible to the public.

    9. Nynaeve*

      So here are some questions you can answer without sharing the piece:

      1. How did you come up with the idea?
      2. What techniques did you use to find sources and establish trust?
      3. What did you learn that surprised you?
      4. Were there any “sides” or controversies within the community on this particular issue?
      5. Were there any quotes that were SO GOOD, but you just couldn’t find a way to use them?

      Thanks and good luck with your career!

      1. Courageous cat*

        Seems kinda like asking her to do unpaid work/boil her entire story down to talking points that still give way too much away. Idk, I would say let her publish it on her own time and then hopefully come back to us someday with the links!

        1. Nynaeve*

          To be fair, she asked for questions! She certainly doesn’t have to answer anything she doesn’t want to. The latter three questions would be answered by the article and it would certainly be reasonable to say, “You’ll have to wait till it’s published.” The first two questions were about the writing process and wouldn’t be answered by the article, and I was genuinely curious. But an internet question is obviously not a subpoena :)

    10. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

      Is it in the San Francisco Bay Area? Just asking because I’m nosy and if it’s local I might know the people. :)
      I volunteer at the one that is in the East Bay in the gingerbread house.

    11. But First, Tea*

      I understand if you don’t want to share it for whatever reason. But if you are comfortable sharing it I would add to the chorus that would love to read it.

      Additionally, if you’re trying to get it published and are successful I would love to one day see an update letter with a link to wherever it’s published!

  4. KellyU*

    In the unlikely event that a four month resume gap was asked about, it could quite easily be from:

    travel opportunities
    caring for an elderly relative during end of life or a helping out a sibling/cousin after a new baby
    renovation oversight – either for your house or a relative’s

    Honestly, anything. It’s a non-issue, and I wouldn’t immediately assume “Oh my god they got fired from a job eight years ago and thus are completely out of the question for employment with my firm.”

    1. Senor Montoya*

      When I review resumes, I don’t even bother looking at months unless it’s someone with a very short job history (I mean, short in terms of time, not number of jobs), especially when I need to ensure there’s a required minimum of X years post graduate degree.

      1. Myrin*

        I was gonna ask that. I’ve never hired anyone so I wouldn’t know from personal experience but I can imagine that many interviewers, especially those who get a high number of CVs, won’t even notice a gap like this.

      2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        This exactly. I’m more concentrated on deliverables and depending on industry you can contribute a lot in a short amount of time. The only time that I would start counting months is if it looks like a candidate was job hopping, and at that point the resume is already on its way to the circular file.

      3. Gap OP*

        That’s good additional perspective, thanks! I think part of the paranoia on my part is that with very competitive hiring, I don’t want to derail my chances in any way. My rational brain knows it’s not a big deal, but the nerve-wracked job seeker side of me doesn’t want to put a single step wrong.

        1. Ophelia*

          I think the only times I’d bother to include it is if you needed to highlight X skill, and you just happened to do it in that job, or if you were filling out the paperwork for, like, a security clearance and needed to list all employment. But for a resume? Nah.

  5. Lytrel*

    For the Covid nursing home letter writer – I don’t think your main two outrage options are the government or the employer. I think who you should be outraged against is the new hire wlho came in sick with Covid to a NURSING HOME. She was running a fever and her mom had a positive diagnosis. I mean – did people die there? I don’t care what your situation is, you do NOT do that. I consider that not that far off from attempted murder. Unless she’s dumb as rocks? Life is awful for a lot of people, but I don’t care how destitute you are, you don’t do that. Doesn’t matter if it’s technically legal, or her job’s paid time off is terrible – she still has some personal responsibility in this pandemic. We all do!!

    1. MK*

      Is outrage a fixed-amount thing? I see no reason why one can’t be outraged at a government who failed to take proper measures in a crisis AND at an employer who takes advantage of this gap in legislation to put its workers in a possibly untenable position AND at the individual who put their own financial survival above the life and wellbeing of vulnerable elderly people (assuming it was their financial survival at stake, a.k.a. the OP actually knows this worker’s situation and isn’t just presuming that no one would do this unless they were desperate, because unfortunately many would).

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I don’t see the need to paint this as a situation of “[Party] is wholly and solely at fault” or “[Party] is not at all at fault in any way” in either direction.

      2. blackcat*

        Yep. This entire letter made me so ragey. Like I get the employee was in a tough spot they shouldn’t have been in. But they knew it was likely they had coronavirus *and brought it into a nursing home.*

        This isn’t “I’m gonna go into the office with the flu so I can pay my rent, sucks to be the coworker who gets the flu.”

        This is “I am going to value paying my rent/buying food *over the lives of the people I’m supposed to care for.*”

        It really sucks the employee was in this position. But their actions *killed people.* I think we get to be damned angry at everyone here, including the employee. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if this happened at my grandmother’s nursing home.

    2. Hmm...*

      I mean, coming to work sick is objectively unpleasant.

      This whole line of reasoning in the comments is confusing me. No one drags their fever-ridden selves to work just for funsies. If someone is doing something so dangerous, they must be scared to desperate.

      1. Myrin*

        I think you might be overestimating how… reasonable? I guess?… people are in general. I live in a place with paid sick leave no matter the situation (like how long you’ve been at the job or how often you’ve been off sick beofre) as well as universal healthcare and yet my coworkers come in sick all the time. None of them are in desperate situations and they do this even if they’re worse off than just feeling under the weather or something (we indeed had several situations pre-COVID where my boss sent people home because they had a fever).
        As someone who might go to work if she just has the sniffles but otherwise always stays home (although admittedly I simply rarely get sick), I don’t understand their reasoning, but from what I can tell, it’s usually nothing more than an attitude of “oh, it’s not that bad, I can power through it”.

        1. I can only speak Japanese*

          Even if Germany, your employer can punish you for being sick “too often” – it’s just not through loss of income, but loss of opportunities. “Do we really give a raise to HER, she’s been out with the flu twice this year?” Your coworkers might give you the side eye or refuse to cover for you, and suddenly you came back to work half recovered to find a mountain of piled up projects on your desk.

          People are still people, even in Europe.

          1. Myrin*

            Sure, and I’m not denying that. I was talking about my specific place of work with my specific coworkers where what you describe is (luckily!) not a particularly present attitude and yet people used to come in sick regularly.

            (And I also think it matters what your work is like and how well you get along with others – in a previous workplace, everyone was very understanding and sympathetic when the extremely competent superstar employee who was always willing to pitch in and help others out had to take three weeks off because of a complicated health issue, but there was grumbling when the notorious slacker who managed to piss off at least one person a day was out for a week.
            Presumed severity will also play a role – everyone hates the assistant manager at my current workplace but no one said a bad word about the time she had a prolapsed disc in the summer of 2018 and was out sick for I think six or even eight weeks because people know how horrible and long-winded prolapsed disc issues are. I admittedly don’t know how much of that was simply relief that she wasn’t there to get on everyone’s nerves for two months but the way people talked about it felt genuine (I can say that for me, it certainly was a mix of both).)

        2. Koala dreams*

          I had hoped the pandemic would put an end to the toxic culture of coming to work sick with contagious illness, and it’s a letdown that some health care organizations haven’t learnt the lesson after all these months. There will always be thoughtless individuals, but I’m really disappointed that the employer don’t see the value in giving paid sick leave waiting for the test results.

        3. Tau*

          My mother told me how she was driven to distraction by a subordinate who insisted on coming him when he was sick earlier this year. During COVID. In Germany, with universal healthcare and government-mandated paid sick leave. In a public job (not sure how to translate this – öffentlicher Dienst), which means unless he really screws up his job is secure for life. When he had been told, and told, and told over again to please STAY HOME if you have symptoms. And they could WFH if they had any. IIRC, he said something like “oh I had a little fever this morning but I took paracetamol” and my mother basically marched him out the door as the entire team erupted in outrage. Some people are just *weird* like that; she said it was like he could not understand that he was endangering people, not showing grit and dedication, by doing this.

          I’m willing to bet we have a lot less instances of this than the US, though, and that workplace cultures tilt more towards acceptance of sickness and sick leave because it’s considered a fundamental right.

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

            I can’t speak to this guy’s motivation obviously, but as a fellow Western Europe inhabitant (UK) we have similar paid sick leave etc and yet I come across a lot of people like that (outside of the COVID aspect) who insist on coming in while sick…

            I’m guilty of it myself to some degree, although so far I’ve been lucky to not get sick very often. One time though I was off sick for two days due to something unidentified but definitely real (not contagious) and felt quite the ‘burn’ from management and colleagues for letting them down, even though similar to the guy you mention I couldn’t have been fired just for that sickness or whatever. Even a couple of months later mention was being made of things that had happened or decisions taken in meetings etc while I was off, “oh but you were off sick for that meeting, I forgot [i.e. .. ‘forgot’] so you missed that” etc.

            Ultimately I’ve found bosses won’t think any better of you for coming in whilst sick, but will (in some workplaces) think worse of you for going off sick, if that makes sense.

            I’m not commenting on the overall question asked in the OP as I think my response would get moderated, so this is just an aside about this particular issue.

          2. Well...*

            I’m not too surprised to here this. I work in an international institutes and there is one coworker who seems to monitor everyone’s hours and nag people for sick leave who happens to be German.

            Not that I can generalize one person’s behavior to an entire country. But it doesn’t shock me that Germany may have some different cultural expectations around this than their official policies indicate.

            Moving away from rampant speculation, I think these policies are super important but not enough. Work culture needs to support sick days as well. It’s still a systemic problem, not selfish people who love working while sick.

      2. pancakes*

        Some people have a thing about seeing themselves as being honorably stoic, too, or fancy themselves a sort of martyr, with or without a degree of self-awareness of or lucid distance from their own behavior. And/or it’s more like a chip on the shoulder, a sort of “my parents always had to go to work sick and that’s just the thing my people do” approach.

    3. OP1*

      I’m the OP for that letter. Yes, people died. I think they have 6 deaths (and counting) among residents and over 40 of the staff got COVID. My sister who works there got it. She missed 25 days of work all told: she had a slight temp one day and stayed home to get tested. Test results took 5 business days to come back – she was negative but missed those days. Then she had a temp again and stayed home again; results took 4 days to come in and this time she was positive. She was out sick for over 10 working days (she had a medium bad case- nasty cold with lingering nasty cough That required antibiotics to deal with possible pneumonia- no hospitalization though). Then to return to work she had to be symptom free and have two negative tests 24 hours apart. By the time all that was done she’d missed 25 days of work.

      She stayed home when sick but didn’t get paid. She was able to file for unemployment but of course, the “top off” is gone so she got something like $400/week. Her salary is usually $90k/year. She was lucky and could “afford” to stay home, and also was so terrified of bringing the disease in that she stayed home at the first sign of a sniffle. But she’s a 40 year old clinical parodies soon all, not a young new hire with a sick mom and bills to pay.

      1. TL -*

        40 of the staff?? Are they using PPE and enforcing social distancing as much as possible? Contact tracing with a known positive case?

        I work for a hospital that treats COVID patients and with proper precautions you shouldn’t go from 1 person to 40, plus residents. The whole point of PPE + social distancing is to assume people are coming in positive. (Hospital has managed to reduce workplace transmissions to almost none, though they still have people getting community transmissions.)

        (I know nursing homes are more hands on than most care facilities, but the staff transmission is still pinging me as higher than it should be.)

        1. Treebeardette*

          This was my thinking. How do you go from 1 to 40? There should be PPE use, social distancing, and daily cleaning procedures. I know in many factories, people are paid to walk around and sanitize touch surfaces multiple times a day.
          I’m wondering if there weren’t proper guidelines set up or if there were more than one infected person.

        2. Old and Don’t Care*

          I was wondering about the PPE too. The facility apparently had one person with symptoms working and spreading the disease; there could be ten others presymptomatic or asymptomatic. Something else is a problem besides this one worker.

        3. blackcat*

          If this happened a few months ago, lots of nursing homes did not have any real access to proper PPE. That was the case here, in MA–you had staff caring for COVID positive patients with only one surgical mask for the entire day, no n95s anywhere.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not just that, although that WAS an issue. Many facilities did NOT even distribute what they did have.

        4. OP1*

          I don’t know. They are in a newer hotspot. They are a large facility so 40% is about 10-20-% of the staff (remember, 24×7 care). They split the facility into 3 units and essentially locked them all down. One unit has the majority of infections; a few residents in other units have tested positive. Staff, most of which doesn’t cross units, seems to be the major area of infection. My sister wears(wore) one n95 with a cloth mask on top. I think they switched n95s ever few days.

          Resident/patients had cloth masks until the outbreak; now they have n95s, if they keep them on. Many have severe cognitive issues and cannot/do not keep PPe on.

          1. TL -*

            If the staff, which don’t cross units, are the majority of the infections instead of the residents, I doubt the COVID cases are coming from inside the nursing home, honestly. It sounds like they’re majority community transmissions the staff are bringing into the workplace, and the PPE/prevention measures are helping to prevent transmission to the patients, though they’re not entirely effective.

            It doesn’t excuse what the COVID+ worker did, but I sincerely doubt she was the largest contributor to this outbreak; she was just the first one who tested positive.

          2. Observer*

            I think they switched n95s ever few days.

            Inadequate PPE. These things do not retain effectiveness for several days at a time.

            If STAFF are wearing decent PPE (which they clearly are not getting!) properly, then the residents are probably pretty well protected.

      2. Mama Bear*

        It’s awful, but where my relatives live they had something like 20 cases total (mostly staff) and 3 deaths. That is with things like quarantine anytime you return from outside the facility, no one leaving their apartments, staff wearing PPE and no guests. It’s hard to contain in a nursing home or similar.

    4. Scarlet2*

      Yes, you’ve made it very clear that you “don’t care” if people desperately need to go to work when they’re sick. Their fault for being poor, I suppose?

    5. WS*

      So, Lytrel, what are you doing to address the situation? Are you campaigning for sick leave for all staff? Are you campaigning for a living wage – including healthcare – for healthcare workers, no matter how far down the chain they are? How about access to food and rent payments while she’s responsibly quarantining? You have a lot of outrage, maybe you could put that energy into something useful.

      1. K. A.*

        For goodness sake, WS, people have DIED because that new employee started work even though her mom had COVID-19 and she herself had a fever!

        Lytrel is right. No matter our circumstances, we all have some personal responsibility during this pandemic.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I think this is a little exaggerated. There are social safety resources that I mentioned above, particularly for food, less so for rent. If you get fired for bringing covid to a nursing home, you are in a worse position than taking a week off unpaid sick. Also, most courts aren’t going to evict you for your rent being a few weeks late.
            I also understand that I have never lived in fear of being evicted or missing food so my calculus can be off, but I have worked and volunteered with those populations and am aware of tons of resources. A lesser known resource is your local community health center. They can often help with food, diapers, formula, rent, legal aid, translation services, all sorts of safety net stuff.

            1. Crop Tiger*

              Social safety nets tapped out months ago. Unemployment benefits will most likely crash soon. I’m salaried in a professional job, and even I’d probably go to work sick. In less than a month I wouldn’t have a car to live in unless I paid massive penalties.

            2. EPLawyer*

              The social safety nets rely on others to keep them going. If everyone is struggling then no one is donating to the food banks, the rent assistance programs, the utility programs, etc. Governments have fewer revenues because of less money circulating so they are cutting programs.

              The social safety is not a magical thing that just appears as needed. It relies on society to keep going.

              1. JessaB*

                And this particular iteration of the US Government has resolutely done it’s hardest to fail to plug the holes in the net in the first place. Other countries have given monthly stipends, we got ONE and they’re fighting like crazy to avoid giving us a second one. Other countries put things in place that don’t end til AFTER the pandemic is over for x days. Ours didn’t do that.

                For some reason this country things the poorest people should take care of each other instead of expecting the government to do it’s expletive deleted job.

              2. Case of the Mondays*

                I understand that. I guess I just feel like a deadly pandemic is a different beast that normal cold and flu season. If the person at issue really thought it could be allergies or a sinus infection or whatever, that’s a different story. But if you were exposed to a COVID positive person, *live with them*, and then have symptoms, there is zero excuse for going into a nursing home.

                On top of the deaths, she’s also causing tons of her coworkers to be out of work without pay and they could be facing the same financial hardships that she is facing, with no choice in the situation.

                If you read the fine print in a lot of state statutes, it is actually a crime to violate a quarantine order. If mom had a diagnosis the healthcare provider probably advised mom and household members to quarantine.

                1. sequined histories*

                  We’ve done a lot in the United States to promote a culture of “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” Self-reliance is lauded as the ultimate virtue. Hardworking people are routinely blamed for their poverty, but now we expect them to display the utmost altruism and a) risk infection by continuing to toil in their essential frontline jobs while being literally spat upon by people who don’t want to wear a mask for a few minutes b) go without a paycheck and therefore the necessities of life if they get sick.

                  Absolutely it’s morally wrong to go to work in a nursing home when common sense tells you that you probably have Covid-19.

                  But I don’t ask myself why someone would do so; rather I marvel that so many low-wage workers have cared for my elderly parents and grandparents with such kindness and diligence when their labor is so poorly rewarded.

                  I am TERRIFIED my parents will contract this infection and die in the next few months, but if they were infected by a caregiver—in a scenario such as that described letter—I’m really not sure I would have the heart to vilify them.

                  I would very, very angry, for sure.

                  But we treat people like dogs and expect to act like angels.

                2. Lalaroo*

                  Your point about the other coworkers who are now having to be out of work without pay is such a good one. This one person made a choice that started a cascade of horror. It is possible that not coming to work for a couple weeks would have caused her to starve to death, but that’s so unlikely! I don’t understand why everyone is falling all over themselves to excuse her actions when her actions caused the deaths of six people and caused 40 more to suffer the same fate that apparently was so horrifying it justified her coming to work with COVID?

                3. Observer*

                  @sequined histories
                  Hardworking people are routinely blamed for their poverty, but now we expect them to display the utmost altruism and a) risk infection by continuing to toil in their essential frontline jobs while being literally spat upon by people who don’t want to wear a mask for a few minutes b) go without a paycheck and therefore the necessities of life if they get sick.

                  . . .

                  But we treat people like dogs and expect to act like angels.

                  This is so true. And thus we get:

                  Absolutely it’s morally wrong to go to work in a nursing home when common sense tells you that you probably have Covid-19.

                  But I don’t ask myself why someone would do so;

        1. Observer*

          Actually, people died because the place is not taking adequate precautions. The OP mentions that the staff change the N95 masks “every few days”. Which is better than never wearing the masks, but it means that most of the time, the staff effectively has no mask on. OF COURSE covid ripped through the place. And it would have done so even if she had stopped coming to work once she had symptoms – pre-symptomatic is not uncommon. With no masks, it IS going to be an issues.

        2. WS*

          I am a frontline healthcare worker and administrator. I am working very hard to make sure nobody in my organisation is put in this position. I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask someone screaming about this online what they themselves are doing to prevent this kind of horrible situation.

    6. Esme*

      Why wouldn’t you blame the systems that are wrong and they put people in these positions?

      Blaming the individual is easier, but wrong.

      1. K. A.*

        Esme,
        Are you saying the individual has no responsibility? The circumstances suck, that’s for sure. However, there’s no way a person who’s taking care of her mom who has COVID and who herself has a fever doesn’t realize that she also has the virus. No way she didn’t know when she went into work with a vulnerable population.

        And now people in the nursing home are dead.

        And more may die.

        I guess it’s easy for some of you to dismiss those lives because they aren’t people you love. I happen to care about them.

        1. WellRed*

          Of course they bear responsibility but unless you can throw yourself on your own sword, would you honestly risk losing food and shelter? Especially in a pandemic?

        2. Eirene*

          Ah, yes, those of us who understand that choosing between going to work with mild symptoms of what could be coronavirus but could also be a dozen other things and not being able to make rent or buy food obviously don’t care what happens to anyone else, because we only have the capacity to care about one thing at a time.

          1. Casper Lives*

            How in this case are you ignoring that the hire’s mother, that they LIVED WITH, had a positive coronavirus diagnosis? This isn’t “oh I had a sniffle.”

            1. Eirene*

              Listen, I get that you’re upset about your aunt, so maybe you ought to take a step back for a while, because obviously you’re not looking at this from any other angle and not listening to anything that anyone with a different perspective has to say.

              I am not ignoring that fact. I am taking into context from the OP that the nursing home staff does not have adequate PPE, which means that if it wasn’t this worker, it certainly would have been someone else. The place was a ticking time bomb to begin with. The blame there lies with management, who should be ensuring stricter protocol and that all its staff has adequate PPE, which would have limited the outbreak far more.

              And by the way, my brother is a nurse in a nursing home that does not provide enough PPE. I don’t want him or his patients to get COVID because a CNA dragged herself into the place with a fever and a cough, but CNAs get paid for shit and are often living on the razor’s edge of poverty, so I understand why they would. That’s on his management for not paying enough and for not providing the proper equipment.

              1. Luffy*

                Yup totally agree with Eirene.

                This worker could equally have started the COVID wave if they and their family members were asymptomatic. They would have happily gone to work and may never even have realized the contagion started with them. The PPE and infection control procedures were been inadequate, bottom line. We can argue for days on whether the worker should have come to work, but this was a tragedy waiting to happen no matter who brought in the virus and the management and government hold the vast majority of the blame imo.

        3. Wander*

          I don’t think that it’s fair to say that people who don’t particularly blame the employee don’t care.

          For what it’s worth, one of my husband’s parents died of COVID in a similar situation. A nursing home employee came in with it, it spread, and over a dozen people (including husband’s parent) died. We don’t know the details – if the employee was symptomatic, if they knew they had been exposed, why they came in, how serious they took precautions beforehand – and we probably never will, because that information’s not going to be released.

          My husband is devastated. His family is devastated. And they are angry. My husband especially is furious. But not at the employee. They’re angry at the officials whose actions led to this, who dismissed this for so long and then took such half-hearted steps to help because they didn’t want to risk upsetting wealthy donors. They’re angry that we live in a country where tests were unavailable for so long, that undercuts its own message about how serious the virus is, and has made it into a politic thing instead of a health and safety issue. They’re angry that we live in a state that was one of the last to close and one of the first to reopen, a state that outright refuses to put a mask mandate in place, and has predictably become a hotspot.

          They’re not angry at the nursing home employee. If details came out that the employee was one of those people who didn’t believe in COVID and went around licking residents then sure, that would probably change (though I suspect the greater portion of the anger would still be directed at the administrations that made that a not unusual view). But right now, the assumption is either they were asymptomatic and didn’t know or they were desperate. My husband’s family were poor for years, to the point of eviction and needing food banks to survive. They know how bad our support systems are and how hard it is to recover from even the most minor setback.

          Do I think people who know they almost definitely have COVID should go into work, especially if they work with vulnerable populations? No, of course not. No matter where you cast the blame, it’s a tragedy. But being on that razor’s edge of poverty, especially when they have a sick loved one to support, makes people desperate, and we live in a system where a lot of healthcare workers are criminally underpaid, have no paid sick leave, and are exempted from things that should help like the FFCRA. Emotions aren’t a zero sum game, but I can’t work up righteous anger against someone who had to make a terrible choice when there are so many people who, out of nothing more than greed, have enabled and encouraged the conditions that led to this in the first place. Those people and those systems are the ones with blood on their hands.

        4. Luffi*

          Thank god you happen to care about them, when no one else will. I absolutely promise this isn’t sarcasm.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        You can do both, though. You can recognize that the primary responsibility is of the employer to provide paid leave and of the government to make it illegal for employers not to provide paid sick leave, and still hold the coworker accountable for an extremely reckless dangerous choice and recognize that she bears some responsibility and the deaths of those residents.

        1. blackcat*

          Yeah, this is one of those times I wish the comments here allowed gifs, so I could drop one of the solid “Why not both?” gifs.

          1. JessaB*

            What I don’t get is the whole point of all those regulations, mask, cleaning, distancing etc, is to mitigate the spread. How in heck…even if they had to go out and buy bandanas and put them over their faces like old west caricatures of outlaws, it’s completely outrageous that the US managed to kill their ability to respond to a pandemic.

            And I say this as someone who will 90% or better likely die if I get COVID as problematic as my lungs are and as immunosupressed as I am.

        2. Wake Me When Its Over*

          My relative who is a nursing assistant at a nursing home has been receiving hazard pay and bonuses for just coming to work. Given the low wages of caregiving, this is further incentive to report in when sick.

  6. MK*

    OP4, I am confused about your concerns. Why are you worried about them being able to play back what you said in your interview? If, say, they decide to fire you because you can’t do xyz, they don’t need to provide video evidence that you said you could in your interview, they can just … fire you, either because you did misrepresent yourself or because you can’t do what they need from you. Also, I don’t know your field, but an interview isn’t usually a consulting session where you provide actual usable “ideas”.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think it’s more that they company could be weird. Like if they say they are good with excel documents, but the company uses excel in an unusual way that they OP is not good with they could call them in and replay and say “see right there in your interview you said you knew Excell, but you do t do you! You misrepresented your self”

      1. Joielle*

        But it’s not really any different from having the same question in an in-person interview – the company could still do the same thing, just with no video. The company doesn’t need video “proof” that the OP said something in an interview.

      2. MK*

        They don’t need a recording of the interview to do that, though, they can just point out that you said so in the interview. And you won’t be able to honestly dispute it, because you did say so. I mean, in your example, what does the existence of the video change? If there was no video, would you lie and deny that you said you knew Excell? Presumably you would just explain that you didn’t have this application of it in mind. You can do that when there is a video, in fact you can turn the tables on them and point out that they didn’t specify this unusual application themselves.

    2. Observer*

      I was wondering the same thing.

      OP, if you are not lying, you have nothing to worry about here. Of course, if the company is weird, ridiculous and punitive, then that’s a problem. But lack of video is NOT going to stop people / companies like that.

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

      I’m not OP4, but I feel like I can understand where they are coming from, if it’s potentially an anxiety-driven (in a general sense, not an “armchair diagnosis”, of course — pretty much everyone will experience anxiety from time to time) or just a ‘uncertainty about the unknown’ sort of response.

      I think being fired (?) because OP claimed to know Excel or whatever it is in the interview but then didn’t have the exact skills the company needed… or having their ideas in the interview taken and used, then the company realizes they don’t need OPs role because they have just been given the solution… yeah, I know that “free consulting” is a thing that happens in interviews, and it is a valid thing to be concerned about, but I get the sense that OP4 has more of a list of “what ifs” about video recording of those interviews, of which the 2 examples are just… examples.

      As such I would suggest to OP4 if you can, to try to articulate rationally to yourself what you fear is happening in those scenarios that you suggested (and any others that may be going through your mind that you didn’t mention).

      I often use a “means, motive, opportunity” framework as a way of thinking through explaining things in general, as well as anxiety-driven thoughts. No-one told me to do it and I don’t think it’s scientifically validated, just nicked from the “crime” thing, but I have found it useful. In this case the ‘means’ is obvious (company has the info recorded on video call), ‘motive’ is less obvious (to check up on the OP? use the OPs ideas?) and ‘opportunity’, again, less obvious e.g. is it likely that the suggestion offered by the OP in their interview solves the business problem so completely that it obviates the entire role? etc.

  7. Budgie Buddy*

    For #3 I did have to go back and read that the article was just about the industry and not any involvement on OP’s part. Then I read that the industry was journalism and I was like “Eh, sounds like it would make an engaging piece why not.”

    I work for a pretty straight laced newspaper so it probably wouldn’t be the correct for that niche, but a lot of people in my grad school program would also have been fascinated by that piece so I think it being about alternate lifestyles isn’t a bad thing. In journalism it is a plus to cover more unusual topics.

    1. Esme*

      In journalism it is a plus to cover more unusual topics.

      Came here to say the same. And being able to gain people’s trust, do in-depth reporting, etc etc – you’re showing off a bunch of skills here.

    2. Batgirl*

      On my last newspaper we straight up did a piece on a dungeon just ’cause. We didnt have as good of a hook as ‘in the time of Covid’ either; as I remember it was because it was based in a somewhat sleepy, thatched village (the villagers didn’t care) and it was just a bit of a unique talking point. We were tabloid, but local tabloids are still family newspapers, so we didn’t cover anything in an explicit way, it was more the surrounding issues.
      Honestly I think it’s a good thing to have in a trainee’s portfolio because it shows how they’d handle something out of the ordinary. It would have prevented our hiring that one person who couldn’t handle anything sexual with sensitivity; everything was a panto to her.

    3. emmelemm*

      Yeah, a journalist friend of mine did an extended piece on “polyamory as a lifestyle”. She is very much NOT into polyamory, but obviously approached it as “tell me what makes this a great lifestyle for you.”

      The strength of the piece was in getting people to open up to her about a somewhat “taboo” subject that is often difficult to get people to talk about because they fear judgement. I assume BDSM is somewhat similar. And my friend is really, really good at interviewing people (on any subject) and getting them to open up, which is her greatest asset as a journalist. It’s both a skill and a gift.

    4. WillWriteForFood*

      Former reporter/editor here: include the piece! Hiring editors are going to be interested in how you approached the story. Who did you interview? What did you uncover? What sort of insights were you able to bring forward that readers would find thoughtful? Did you challenge conventional wisdom with facts, anecdotes? Did you get the tone right? Reporting is a set of skills — interviewing, writing, developing sources, conducting research, etc. That’s what the editor wants to see. And if they’ve been in the editor/publisher seat for a long time, they have seen waaaay crazier stories.

  8. Effie*

    LW #4, my company records interviews because 1) it’s easier to have Zoom set to record automatically than have the interviewers hit record 2) part of the interview is a live writing sample and the recording is to make sure no one else is doing the writing sample for the candidate.

    1. Jane Plough*

      I don’t understand the logic of video recording someone to check they’re doing their own writing sample? If someone was determined to cheat and knew they were being recorded (please tell me that candidates know and consent to this?!) they could surely just email someone for help and just sit there looking studious for a while. It could be off-putting for candidates to be recorded while working on an interview task.

      I think you’re likely to be putting good candidates off by doing this during the hiring process (I’d certainly look askance at any company that felt this kind of monitoring was normal or acceptable) and if you have any standing to do so, I’d recommend that you challenge this process and seek to get it changed.

    2. Important Moi*

      To me this is example of not completely understanding the software being utilized. I would be surprised if it had even occurred to anyone at Effie’s company that someone could “just email someone for help and just sit there looking studious for a while.”

      My personal example- A supervisor who proudly to me that when an employee sent them a MSWord document, supervisor the would “Save As” the document to see who was listed as the Author. That way supervisor knew who authored the document. This person did not know that the Author of anyone document can be changed. (No, I didn’t correct them.)

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

      (I’m asking out of curiosity, not being snarky in any way!) – When initiating those interviews would the hiring managers in your company say anything to the interviewee to ‘explain’/contextualize why the interview is being recorded?

      1. Effie*

        Yes, the candidate is told when the interview is being confirmed, and it’s included in the confirmation email.

  9. Lisa*

    OP #4, that doesn’t sound too alarming to me. My company records meetings internally all the time. In addition to what Alison suggested, another reason to record an interview is so that the interviewer can focus on listening rather than taking detailed notes. If they want to go back later to remind themselves of something the interviewee said, they can.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Pre-Covid, we did not record the question-and-answer interview portion, but all professional staff are required to do a presentation that is filmed and shared with all staff in the department. Reason is exactly what Alison said, we want all staff to have a chance to view it and weigh in, even if they are unavailable at the time or working at a different location. Candidates are made aware of this when the interview is scheduled. To my knowledge, nothing happens with these recordings once a candidate is chosen and hired.

    2. Ayla K*

      My partner’s Zoom account is set to automatically record all meetings he hosts. It’s part of the way his job works at his company – they need those recordings for QA/historical/whatever reasons. We occasionally use his account to chat with friends (since he has the unlimited account) and I always have to remind him to turn off the recording. It could easily be something like that too.

      1. Pomegranate*

        Ayla K, how interesting that’s the default for your partner’s company. Presumably, if they held the same meeting in person, they wouldn’t be setting up cameras to record the meeting and somebody would take notes if detailed record keeping was required. Was it something that cropped up because there is an easy button on Zoom to allow it? I wonder if they have a protocol in place about where these videos are stored, who has access, who is responsible for data protection, etc. + are all participants (internal & external) aware of this practice? I realize you wouldn’t necessarily know the answers, I’m just thinking out loud about the issues that I see.

  10. Casper Lives*

    I’m almost shaking with angry tears at the new hire in #1. My aunt is in a coma, right now, in her nursing home due to COVID-19. She’s probably not going to make it. I can’t see her. If the nursing home knows how cases started spreading, they’re keeping mum. Honestly? If it was a situation like the new hire coming in with a positive housemate + fever…I’m so flipping angry.

    Yes, the U.S. has handled the pandemic horrifically. My state’s Governor Kemp is one of the worst. I feel hopeless.

    1. Mainely Professional*

      You should be angry. Everyone should be angry. I live in the one state where it’s been deemed fully “safe” to reopen in person instruction in schools (username checks out), and as happy as I am with how some things have gone here, I’m angry.

      The pandemic has shown us that we are responsible for and to each other. The anger I feel comes from that clarity that it is in fact sauve qui peut.

    2. OP1*

      OP1 here. I am so sorry about your aunt.

      She’s bad silly lived in fear since March knowing that *somehow* the virus would eventually get in. She just thought it would be her (no particular reason). I suppose that in every nursing home, *someone* makes a mistake (dumb or honest).

      And fwiw she’s not in Georgia so at least you can be assured this isn’t her nursing home.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      My deepest sympathy. I hope your aunt pulls through, and I feel ya on the hopeless. I see a lot of ‘if we just do X’ posts, and I just want to yell, because it’s clear the US is not going to do X. Or Y or Z, either.

      At this point, we just have to get through it. Those who can, hang on until there’s a vaccine, doing what we can to minimize our impact and damage, and recognizing our grief.

      And then tackling the problems so that the next pandemic isn’t so bad.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Thank you. This question hit me hard. Like I’m tearing up right now. The system of course needs to change. But what this person did – knowingly hiding symptoms of a disease deadly to the elderly, so that the employer couldn’t screen them out, and knowingly exposing the vulnerable elderly to a deadly disease?

        It’s horrific. It’s not “shoplift food from Walmart. It’s way worse.

        I’m leaving this page. All of the comments sympathizing with this plague bearer are too much for me.

    4. sequined histories*

      One of the last things my mother did before sinking definitively into her dementia was vote for Stacey Abrams.

      I often think that if my parents die of this before I’m ever able to see them again, I may never be able to forgive.

      I get where you’re coming from, believe me.

  11. Finland*

    I see so many letters asking about employment gaps as though they are problematic. I had a five month gap before my current job, which allowed me to explore new interests and enjoy lots of free time. Why is it perceived to be a negative?

    1. rudster*

      In the US at least, it’s some combination of
      1) Failing to make financially productive use of every moment of your time is a sign of laziness and lack of “gumption”.
      2) There is probably something wrong with you, or another employer would have snatched you up right away.
      3) If you can afford a several-month break, you really don’t need the money or the job that badly and are obviously not sufficiently motivated to work hard, so we should hire some who is instead.
      Obviously there are silly, unjustified conclusions, but which are probably widespread perceptions.

        1. BRR*

          I think the concerns from a potential employer about a gap would be the same. And it’s not that a gap is always a problem, it’s a potential problem that can be fine in a lot of scenarios.

        2. D3*

          Clearly that means you will be a drain on the company insurance plan and/or be out a lot because you are sick. You forget the US ties health care to employment which means, while not legal and horribly unethical, this will also be taken as a red flag.

        3. Lord Gouldian Finch*

          Well if you were dealing with health issues, you might be SICK and therefore drive up their insurance rates or take lots of time off.

      1. BRR*

        I think this sums it up pretty well but I would add a fear that your skills are stale and gaps could indicate that you involuntarily left the job prior to the gap.

      2. Resumegapgirl*

        I wonder if people really care though? I have had a few gaps in my resume. I graduate in 08 (hello recession) and was laid off twice. Its clear on my resume and maybe its held me back? But I still have held great jobs and have a great job now. People have asked about it and haven’t said much TBH. Maybe its luck, or I just avoided the “Karens”.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nah, it’s really not that. It’s that recent-ish gaps of 6+ months just raise questions — but they’re questions that can be answered, often very easily. It just means interviewers might ask about them, and then you need to answer. Which isn’t necessarily a big deal at all. Non-hiring people have somehow gotten the idea that it’s a bigger deal than it is.

        More here:

        https://www.askamanager.org/2015/11/how-much-do-resume-gaps-matter.html

    2. Helvetica*

      Same here! I am from a European country, and it always confuses me a bit when AAM posts questions from people whose gaps in work history would barely be considered gaps here. Anything under a year is pretty much fair game, and I say a year only because that might be the timeframe for which an employer would ask what you were up to. To say that you took off some time to just relax/travel/enjoy other facets of life would be absolutely acceptable.
      I am always slightly bewildered by such differences in work culture which I really didn’t realize before I became AAM reader.

      1. TechWorker*

        Taking time off to travel/relax might be acceptable but it’s also super rare, pretty sure even in most (all?) European countries its rare to have enough savings to survive not having a job for 5/6 months.

        The only people I’ve known to do it have been either gap year types (young, saved up whilst living at home or studying), very wealthy, or both.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          I know people who are not very wealthy who don’t work for six months or a year.

          They might have a year’s savings, but that does not make one very wealthy. Perhaps relative to you, but simply having a year’s savings is not very wealthy in an objective sense.

          I know a guy who owns his own home – he bought it super cheap years ago. He has nearly no living expenses. And he goes many months without working. He’s super-frugal in general because he has no money. He does have a roof.

          These examples are in the US though – I don’t know about Europe.

          1. TechWorker*

            Given a good proportion of Americans live paycheck to paycheck I’m just gonna disagree? Like yes there might be examples where people own a house and don’t work but that is not the norm.

            (I’m also aware of sabbaticals being a thing but given they’re usually mid employment I doubt they’d create a Resume gap in general)

            1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              You wrote “only people” – yeah, that might be the only people you know, but the world is a lot broader than your experience.

              “Given a good proportion of Americans live paycheck to paycheck I’m just gonna disagree?”
              Yeah, that kinda fits my point too – we’ve got, what, half of America like that? And then you mention the “very wealthy.” Well, there’ s fair bunch of people between those two extremes.

              1. TechWorker*

                The most recent data that was quickly google-able was 80% in 2017… so I would say 6 months of savings makes you wealthy (especially as to quit work for 6 months you probably in reality need more than that). I’m not sure why you’d assume the one person you know is more or less representative than the people I know, but I’d say I’m backed up by stats… maybe just different interpretations of what ‘very wealthy’ means :)

                1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  ” maybe just different interpretations of what ‘very wealthy’ means :)”

                  Yes. If you think, say, $40K or even $8oK in liquid savings makes someone “very wealthy,” you’re way way off.

        2. allathian*

          Depends on where you are. I work for the government and I have unemployment insurance, which will pay me 80 percent of my current salary for up to 500 days if I get laid off, as long as I register at the unemployment office and keep looking for jobs. But it does mean that I could be more selective about which jobs I’d apply to to start with. They won’t pay if I leave voluntarily or get fired for cause, though. Trying to get a job when you’re unemployed can take much time and energy as working, so it definitely wouldn’t be a vacation!

          Sabbaticals used to be a thing here. If you’d been working for at least 15 years and employed by the same employer for at least 6 or 8 years, it used to be possible to take a sabbatical so that the employer could hire someone else for the duration. That other person had to be unemployed but they did’t have to be hired as your replacement. The employee who took a sabbatical got a subsidy of approx. 60 percent of their salary. My first office job was working in the back office of a bank for 8 months. My job title was something like general assistant and I was hired because the office manager went on a sabbatical. At that time, I’d been unemployed for about a month. My mom took a few months’ sabbatical about 5 years before she retired. This system has by and large been dismantled, unfortunately…

        3. Lizzo*

          Also rare due to health insurance being tied to employment in the US, which is another reason young folks could do this (you can stay on your parents’ insurance until you’re 25ish).

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Loads of young people take off to Asia where the cost of living is cheap. Even more when you don’t eat at hotspot restaurants. They might save up a bit of money working – I know lots who’ve odd-jobbed their way along the coast of Australia, then chilled in Asia on the money they earned doing that.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, same here. Fixed-term contracts are very common, especially at the start of professional employment, and it’s not always possible to get another contract without a gap.

    3. Alice's Rabbit*

      Usually because most people only have a gap if they got fired. Otherwise, they have their next job lined up before leaving their current place of employment. Yeah, they might take a short break between the two, but not long enough to show on a resume.
      So a long gap (without a reasonable explanation like school, health, or family issues) means you were either fired or foolishly walked out without lining up your next job, neither of which looks good.

        1. londonedit*

          Being laid off/made redundant is a reasonable explanation. It’s not the same as being fired. But interviewers will probably still ask you to explain the gap if you include it on your CV, and you’ll probably need to have some sort of explanation of what you were doing in the meantime (besides job hunting!)

          I was made redundant in 2008 (of course) and spent three months freelancing and job hunting. I then accepted another job, but thanks to the financial crisis I was told there wasn’t budget to keep me beyond my three-month probation period, and I then ended up going back to the company that had made me redundant (because a load of other people had left in the meantime and they were, ironically, struggling for staff). So that was all a bit of a mess, and in the following years I was always asked about it in interviews. I just explained what had happened in simple terms, and people accepted the explanation. Now that we’re 12 years down the line and literally no one would care, I don’t even bother including the six-month flip-flopping between companies, I just leave it out and it looks like I was at the original company 2006-2012.

      1. Roeslein*

        Relocation is also a fairly common reason to have a gap actually. I had to move for my husband’s job and while I found my own job pretty quickly I do have a two-month “gap”.

      2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “most people only have a gap if they got fired.”

        Is this true? How do you know this?

        Perhaps you meant to say, the *perception* is people usually have a gap because they got fired.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      It isn’t negative if you have an otherwise “full” resume = a record of working for some years. If you’ve been working five years and there’s ONE gap, well, I don’t care.

      If you’ve been working one year and there’s a five month gap in the middle of it, yes, I’m going to notice. If you get to a phone screen, I’m going to ask about it.

      I want to do my best to find people who are likely to be on the job and not flake out after a relatively short period of time. And yes, I understand very well that life can happen to any of us and the person we hired two weeks ago may need to be out sick for a month. That’s different.

    5. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah, being concerned about a four-month gap after eight years of steady employment seems, um, much to me. So many people have stints of unemployment after graduating/when they first start out. If that made you unemployable, the bread lines would have been winding around the block long before the pandemic.

      I’ve mentioned before I used to temp. Even before temping, I was a grad looking for work. I worked for two different companies that went out of business within a year of me starting. There’s a few years on my resume that look like swiss cheese. But eventually I got a job and a better job. It’s just… not that big a deal.

  12. agnes*

    LW #1 once again we see a perfect example of how the lowest paid among us are at the highest risk and are also forgotten by the government that is supposed to provide the safety net. When I saw the provisions of the Families First Act I was shocked. First responders and medical professionals/ paraprofessionals are the FIRST people that we should be covering with paid leave if they are symptomatic!!!

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I was going to mention hiring with the federal government where they really do want you to list every single job you’ve ever had. It’s very rigid.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      This is where it’s useful to remember a resume doesn’t have to be a thorough record of everything you’ve ever done. That’s why people often tailor resumes to each job application – they’re meant to showcase your relevant experiences, in addition to a general overview of your work history. A background check, by its nature, must be much more thorough.

      That said, a background check has much less sway in hiring decisions than a resume does. Especially if it’s something like a federal government job, different people are doing the background check, and the things they’re looking for are different. They’ll flag the hiring team if something concerning to *them* comes up – but “this person had a short-term job they didn’t list on their resume” wouldn’t be that.

    1. Raven*

      I will for sure send Alison a link when/if it gets published! I was hesitant about pitching it before, but I definitely will now that I’ve seen the responses :)

  13. Important Moi*

    LW2: Observation. If you are a friend to this person and it is appropriate within your relationship have a discussion about the not normal norms about your workplace with the goal (hope?) they don’t take this mindset to the next place of employment.

    Imagine having to wonder about needing permission from a micromanaging tyrant to get job references from other people. I don’r have have to, it already happened.

  14. Anon Fed*

    The only situation where the 4 month gap might be a problem is in certain government jobs where they do a more thorough background check, but even then I think you could leave it off the resume when you apply. When I applied for a government job there was a separate background check form. I was in a similar situation and had a short-term job and I only listed it on the background check form.

  15. Jennifer*

    #1 This is so sad. I’m glad people are slowly starting to realize the blame belongs on the government and these companies, not the individual. People are just trying to get by the best way they know how.

    1. Crivens!*

      Me too. I am so privileged to not have to make that choice, but I’ve been in places before where I had no other choice but to come in sick, otherwise I would have been homeless. I’m disappointed that we’re seeing people place the blame on the individual even here, where people are usually more empathetic.

      I don’t think people truly understand what it is to be poor or working paycheck to paycheck.

      1. Jennifer*

        Same. I don’t get why people don’t understand that sometimes it’s either work or don’t eat.

        1. Cathym*

          So if the choice is kill six people or ear, you think it is fine to kill six people? This is what this knowingly did. We KNOW it is deadly in nursing homes. She murdered for her own gain.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            She didn’t though. I don’t think this person should have come BTW but …

            She didn’t know for sure that she had COVID. She was probably hoping that it was allergies or something less dangerous. Even if she knew for sure that she had COVID, she did not know the outcome would be 6 dead. She hoped it wouldn’t spread no doubt. She hoped she’d feel better tomorrow.

            1. Cathym*

              So what you are saying is that she didn’t know whether she had it or not. too bad there aren’t steps in place to protect us from people like that, like the idea that they’re not allowed to come into work when they have a fever.
              She deliberately took steps to deceive that rule, and people have now died.
              She did something so that she would not lose pay, and now probably has lost her job.
              And again, put into danger and then killed the people she was being paid to take care of.

          2. Jackalope*

            Murder means unlawful and premeditated killing of another person. I understand why you are upset with this aide’s decision, but she did not deliberately choose to kill someone else, not unless she knew she was infected and was going around licking residents’ faces or something with the intention of killing them. Part of murder is that you have the intent to kill. Arguing that she was reckless, yes, that’s plausible, irresponsible, but her purpose was not to kill people, her purpose was to keep her job. This is an important legal distinction.

            And we are all wired with survival genes and wired to care about the people we are close to more than random strangers. You can argue that she made the wrong ethical choice here – obviously that’s what you believe – but it is generally acknowledged that if you are in the position of either doing something morally questionable or letting yourself and your family starve, a large percentage of people will choose to keep themselves and their family alive rather than strangers. Again, she did not deliberately and willfully kill anyone, but if she had this would still be considered a mitigating circumstance. It’s not like “her own gain” that you’re talking about here was a random luxury that she could live without.

      2. MarsJenkar*

        Yeah, I was in a year-and-a-half period where my savings were slowly draining and even with personal spending brought to the lowest levels I could manage in a long-term situation, I wasn’t able to stop it. I was having to think ahead to what I would do if the well ran dry (best estimate: I had maybe another year), and I would have had to make some very tough choices indeed, choices that could have been very damaging for me in the long term.

        Thankfully it never got to that point, but there are a lot of people who *live* at that point constantly, and in many cases it’s not their fault. I can blame them only so much for making a “selfish” choice when the “right” choice causes such major problems for them; any real anger I have at the situation goes toward the employer and (especially) the government for not doing their part.

      3. Wake Me When Its Over*

        I do understand and worked paycheck to paycheck for many years, whicle raising a child as a single parent and relying on credit cards for emergencies. Most Americans, especially minorities, don’t have family money.

  16. travel nurse*

    I’ve been doing COVID crisis assignments since April (NYC, etc). I have had several assignments that involved visiting nursing homes. Nursing home nurses are the lowest paid nurse specialty and have 20-50 patients under their care at any one time. The aides make minimum wage. I only met people doing the best they can with no resources from the facilities. The facilities hoard PPE and refuse to allow staff to use supplies. The staff were desperate to the point of washing their N95s at home to re-use them (yes I educated them that this renders it useless). Meanwhile boxes of PPE sat in administrative offices under the direction of the “home office.” The nurses and aides have spent long shifts caring for their residents, and many, many staff have been seriously ill themselves. I would hope that we as a society can channel our outrage to the corporate chains that own these facilities.

    1. Vaguely Sauntering*

      Absolutely! Our society needs to examine and meaningfully learn from this pandemic. Especially how so many business models that champion gig economy, workforce casualisation and zero hour contracts create a less resilient and vulnerable community.
      Tying that financial mindset to caring for our frail and vulnerable…. is positively sociopathic.
      But I’m sadly unconvinced human society will enact any meaningful change after this. Instead the chasm between have and have-not will likely widen .

    2. Wake Me When Its Over*

      A patient load like you mention here would be illegal in my state. Families hould report to their state oversight body nursinghomes that seem to be understaffed. In my state, staffing levels must be posted at the front of the facility.

      1. Wake Me When Its Over*

        Aids (CNAs) make about $13-$14 hour, not minimum wage but low for the nature of the work. It is hard.

      1. Vaguely Sauntering*

        For nursing homes that hoard and don’t use, I assume the decision makers are reactive and short sided who think they’ll bring it out ‘if there’s a problem’. Not realising how essential it is to prevent the problem.
        I think in their heads they’re equating the same way as emergency funds. ‘If this happens we’ll spend this and it will help but in the meantime do with less”.
        Completely the wtong mindset for how to treat vital medical equipment in a pandemic but an extremely common one for maximising profit out of Aged Care.

  17. Hires Writers*

    LW3 – I hire writers, but it’s more similar to technical writing than journalism.

    Sometimes I get applications from writers who include pieces like this. If it’s just in your portfolio, I wouldn’t think too hard about it – I’d skip over it and look for more relevant pieces. As long as there ARE more relevant pieces, it wouldn’t bother me and I wouldn’t factor it into my decision.

    But sometimes writers include pieces like this as a highlighted/top example (we ask for links to relevant pieces in the cover letter) and THAT is a red flag for me. It shows that they don’t have anything more relevant, or don’t understand the different between journalism and technical writing, or don’t understand professional norms.

  18. Towanda*

    Re: all the people who are complaining about the systemic problems with paid leave, not enough or expensive healthcare, etc. I agree with you. I’m hoping this pandemic will make people realize that they have to take responsibility for their own lives and safety and stop depending on the government to save them. Make your own money so you aren’t forced to work when you are sick.

    1. That'll happen*

      That’s your takeaway? Not that we should have more robust benefits in line with every other developed nation so that people don’t have to choose between their health and making a living, but that everyone needs to pull themselves up by their bootstraps?

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Wha? If that’s what you think? Where are the bootstraps supposed to come from?

            (Also, the origin of that phrase was about the impossibility of lifting oneself by one’s own bootstraps, but it’s since been coopted to suggest the opposite).

            1. Towanda*

              Well, first, I didn’t say the bootstraps thing in my comment. Other people are saying it. But what are you metaphorically referring to as the “boots?” A job with paid leave? Healthcare? General government support?

              1. Quill*

                A healthcare system that is affordable to the vast majority of the population, for a start.

                An economy that does not rely on exponential growth and racing to the bottom of how much they pay their actual labor.

                Overall an economic system that actually puts any value on human life…

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  All of this — so very, VERY much.

                  I can’t emphasize how much I agree with this, especially after reading the incredibly insensitive comment from Towana, which I’m commenting on elsewhere.

      1. Towanda*

        Yes, of course we SHOULD have those things. But none of us can say exactly when that will happen. Do you prefer to tell people to sit there and wallow for years until MAYBE the government does something about it? Or would you rather teach people how to be self-sufficient so that they will be in a much better position no matter what the government does?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Bootstraps! Bootstraps!

      Stuff it. The government is there to protect us. Not just suckle off our tax paying teets. You’re part of the problem.

    3. Jaybeetee*

      I do understand what you mean in the sense of “Fair or not, nobody’s coming. Save yourself.” That said, that’s exactly what leads to people going to work with covid symptoms – that new hire *was* looking out for herself and her family, and did the utterly wrong thing for the community around her.

      I do wish someone would sit down someday and demonstrate how someone with low wages could establish savings and live within their means. I made minimum wage, and then low wages, at a certain point in my life. I am no longer there, but if this pandemic happened 10 years ago, I might have been screwed – certainly, I would have had to move in with family. I don’t know which chunk of rent or food I could have cut to have savings.

        1. OyHiOh*

          Please try an experiment

          Two adults
          One paid. . . . oh let’s say $12/hour, 30 hours a week (about average in my area for nursing home aids). The other getting $1200/mo social security disability (average payment).

          Now, rent and utilities in your area
          Car and health insurance
          Gas and maintenance of the car
          Food
          Scrubs and other requirements of the job

          How does a person save?

          There’s a piece going around social media teaching teens the value of starting savings that promotes “just $5 a day!” But $5/day $35/week and while that’s feasible for many people, for those on the edge, that’s the grocery bill and maybe your work shoes have cracked soles but you have to decide between food and replacing the shoes. We’re not talking about “stop buying fancy coffee on the way to work” savings here!

          1. GothicBee*

            Agreed. You can’t budget your way out of low wages. Some people really don’t understand that. No budget advice will help if you’re not earning enough to cover your basic needs. And even if you are earning enough for basic needs, emergencies happen. Even if you could theoretically save $5 a day, if the amount you’re spending outside of your savings isn’t enough that you’re keeping up with absolutely everything, then you’ll blow through that $5 a day (aka $150 a month) quickly and regularly anytime an unexpected cost comes up.

              1. Wake Me When Its Over*

                Yep. I decided not to be a teacher or pursue any career in the social services because of low pay that wouldn’t allow me to be an independent woman. I indeed made low wages at one time, but it is only because of my escalating pay (and to some degree my frugality) over time (decades!) that I overcame that. People/families making low wages must work together and pool resources. Women should pursue non-traditional.
                employment. Construction laborers make $43/hr in my area, no college required.

                Towanda was piled on, but I think perhaps they were thinking more along the lines of what I am saying here. As a black person, I know the obstacles facing me in this society, yet I can optimize strategies to make things better for myself to the degree I can.

    4. blaise zamboni*

      Thank you. Now I’m picturing one of those Whose Line party segments where the cast plays up caricatures.

      Hello, Paris Hilton In A “Stop Being Poor” shirt, please leave my party now!

      1. Wake Me When Its Over*

        Or like the King of Bootstraps, the late Herman Cain said, “Help Yourself”! So ironic that he died of Covid-19 and stupidity.

    5. Observer*

      Right, because in a pandemic business owners will do JUST FINE.

      Have you seen the bankruptcy rates? And we’re just starting. If more money is not released SOON. It’s going to be a fiscal bloodbath. The idea that people can just take care of themselves in a vacuum and be unaffected by larger events in the world is delusional.

    6. Lizzo*

      @Towanda: are you familiar with the saying, “There but for the grace of God go I”?

      I used to think that my ability to be successful–professionally and financially–was 100% due to what I did. If I worked hard, things would turn out great for me. I’d never have to worry about money, or employment, or job security.

      The actual reality is that I’ve benefitted immensely from 1) white privilege, 2) generational wealth, 3) access to education and professional opportunities, 4) financial literacy skills and more. And **even then**, despite all these resources and my hard work, I’ve still found myself in financially precarious situations.

      There are many folks living paycheck-to-paycheck in the US because they lack access to the things I list above **through no fault of their own** (see: systemic racism and systemic poverty) but there are also folks who have all these things and make good choices, and then get dealt a shitty hand like a financially devastating illness or expensive caregiving responsibilities, and suddenly they are an inch away from the edge of losing everything.

      The thing that changed my attitude the most was having conversations with people who are on, or who have been on some sort of government assistance program, and learning about their personal stories. It sounds like you have some privilege at this point which includes having employment, and therefore a paycheck…? Please take some time to volunteer with a local food pantry or other aid organization where you’ll have a chance to connect with real people receiving assistance. I think you’ll find your understanding of their situations is wholly inaccurate.

      1. Wake Me When Its Over*

        Medical debt is a leading cause of bankruptcy in the US. The health care system needs to change in a major way, perferably to single payer, or many people who are financially secure today could beinsecure tomorrow. There is an element of good fortune in being able to amass assets, such as being born into an educated, better-off family, being left an inheritance (few black people have this advantage), or being above-average in intelligence. These advantages should not be necessary to lead a decent life. Unfortunately, diversity is a weakness because it’s easy to “other” people not like you and disregard their needs. That, and almost pathological individualism are weakening America at the core. Ugh.

    7. Pomona Sprout*

      WHAT!?

      “Make your own money so you aren’t forced to work when you are sick.”

      What the hell is that even supposed to mean? I literally can’t make heads or tails of this. This statement is based on absolutely no reality with which I am familiar.

      What planet do you live on again?

  19. Veryanon*

    Wow. My company is an essential business so we have some employees still on site. We have mandated temp checks/daily health screenings, and give paid time off to anyone who has to stay home for COVID-19 related reasons (symptoms, exposure to someone who tested positive, etc.). I can’t believe *a nursing home* wouldn’t be prepared to put the same precautions in place.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Low margin industry, with most of the profits coming from exploiting cheap labor. Excluding healthcare workers from the govt support was one of the stupidest moves the US govt has made.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Like how the US government excluded black military members from most of the provisions of the Montgomery GI Bill after WWII? Coincidentally, restricting key provisions of pandemic aid so that low paid, front line health workers (who are frequently women, POC, and/or immigrants) don’t have access is . . . not surprising

    2. OP1*

      That was my exact reaction when I talked to my sister. I was sure she was misinformed, or her employer’s HR department was the worlds worst communicators. But nope. The policy is technically legal.

    3. Wander*

      It’s ridiculously short sighted. Paid time off while waiting for test results (and subsequent paid time off should the results be positive) should be the bare minimum. I’m willing to bet they didn’t have it because they didn’t want to pay people who ultimately had negative results and/or assumed people would lie to take advantage of it. But even if you look at it from a purely money standpoint (which you shouldn’t, but there are definitely some who do), which is going to cost more – paying essentially an week’s worth of wages to people occasionally or risking someone coming in sick and getting a bunch of your other employees sick (who are now also out and still need to be paid), getting a bunch of the residents (who are the source of income in this scenario!) sick, some to the point of dying, and dragging your reputation through the mud (no one is going to pick a nursing home with a COVID outbreak)? There’s no viewpoint in which denying people PTO for quarantine is going to work out well in the long run. Sometimes business discussions that are terrible for the employees still have some logic in a purely mercenary view. This one is just gambling where if you win (no one brings COVID into work), you maintain status quo but if you lose, you lose a ton. It’s foolish.

      LW, you said you would switch from being angry at the employer to angry at the government, but I think you’d be justified in being angry at both. The government obviously has the larger portion of the blame, but the nursing home didn’t have to refuse PTO to its employees just because the government wouldn’t pay for it. That it’s not uncommon for nursing homes to be terrible to its employees (and by extension, its residents) doesn’t mean it’s not worth being angry over too. Of course you’re welcome to feel however you do, and if you only have the bandwidth to be outraged at one entity, that’s totally understandable – I just wanted to say that though the government is worse, the nursing home isn’t blameless in this scenario either.

      1. Veryanon*

        Exactly. The lost work hours alone would have to exceed any paid time off they’re paying out, not to mention the extra cleaning/disinfecting, the risk to the residents, etc., etc., etc.
        Admittedly, my company has caught a few employees here and there lying about being sick so they can take paid time off, but the vast majority of honest employees know that we don’t want them coming to work if they’re sick, and appreciate that, so don’t abuse the privilege. Having a few bad actors is no reason to roll the dice with everyone else!

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

        Paid time off while waiting for test results (and subsequent paid time off should the results be positive) should be the bare minimum.

        As an outsider (as in, I’m not from the US and I so far haven’t needed to get tested) the issue I see with this is the potential loophole whereby people in a locale that’s not known for generous PTO policies could get paid time off due to “experiencing symptoms” (but aren’t really) — so, maybe they don’t invent those symptoms exactly, but they already have them…

        For example I took my forehead temperature a couple of days ago and it was in the elevated range — why? It was hot outside, I’d just been doing some strenuous physical activity. I also have a bit of a cough due to my rhinitis which I’ve had for a couple of years, but hey I’ve got coughing symptoms? And you see how it goes.

        I’m not saying I agree, but just suggesting why it maybe open to abuse.

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

          .. so, to finish the thought, I’d be pretty much 100% certain I’d get a negative test result in my situation, because I already know the origin of the “high temperature” and the cough, and I don’t have any other symptoms like feeling rough in general (or any other viral/flu symptoms), shortness of breath etc.

          But in a system like that, I could get paid time off while self-quarantining myself because of “suspected coronavirus symptoms”.

          1. Wander*

            It’s definitely open to abuse, but I don’t know of any system that isn’t. Almost anything can be faked if people try hard enough.

            In this case, you’re relying on the honor system either way. Either you’re trusting people will be honest about their need for testing or you’re trusting people will take unpaid days if they might be sick. If someone lies about needing PTO, it will cost the company extra and they’ll be down an employee for a few days. If someone comes in sick because they can’t afford to take unpaid time, well, we see what can happen above: mass sickness and deaths. We need to fix the latter as soon as we can. Perfect can’t be the enemy of good enough and all that.

            This is just anecdata, but I know far more people who are lying on those health screening tests so they can work rather than the other way around. A lot of people who have other conditions that can cause some of those symptoms know that yes, they’re coughing, have been for years, but no, it’s not a sign of COVID, so they just say they don’t have a cough to get through the screening. There are definitely people who would take advantage of PTO, but I don’t think the majority would. The occasional case of fraud always gets a lot more attention than the countless other cases where there wasn’t fraud.

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

              Yeah, I don’t have the “anecdata” myself but I could totally see that more people would lie in order to be able to go to work rather than to get the time off… but also that in “executive land” or indeed in government (wherever these policies get set), that there could be a kind of paranoia of “people will take advantage of the system wherever they can”. It’s a difficult one to reconcile for sure.

      3. Wake Me When Its Over*

        All covid testing should be the rapid kind. I just had a test this morning required for a doctor visit and results were back in 30 minutes. That’s the way to protect everyone and not have folks cooling there heels for nothing, or worse, spreading the virus unknowingly.

  20. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Owners “permission” to give references is a practice only toxic people require let alone dream of.

    My toxic boss was an owner who literally sent out an email telling everyone they weren’t allowed to give references for any one else. They still did but it was understood if they were “caught” doing so, they’d be fired.

    Nobody gets ton control your destiny like that. I sure hope despite being a micromanager and a little hurt by the resignation the boss doesn’t think it’s remotely up to them what others have to say about his work over all.

    1. Mr. Random Guy*

      My toxic boss did the same thing, and even forbade my remaining coworkers from having any contact with me after my last day (until she needed something from me, when it became polite text messages and sweetness for a bizarre period). Luckily my coworkers understood how vindictive boss can be and agreed to be references, and they knew my work better anyway.
      I can see from Alison’s example where a reasonable boss might say this, but at least in my boss’ case it came from anger at me for leaving, combined with some sort of aggressive/abusive desire to continue having power over me after I left.
      I agree that a person thinking this way should look at what they know about the boss, because as you point out this idea rarely comes from a healthy workplace.

  21. Sopranohannah*

    About 90% of the employees at my job are considered essential under FFCRA, but we do have a very generous leave policy. The issue we’ve started to have is management not letting people who develop symptoms during a shift leave early due to short staffing. How short do you think staffing will be if everyone gets sick?

  22. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    The nursing homes here are health screening everyone and testing everyone before they can even start any job at the facility. This reminder that other states are so lax just made me physically nauseous.

    If I found out someone did that, I have to terminate them for lying on a screening. Which sucks because I understand the idea behind it but murdering elderly or disabled patients is the price this lie can cost us. It’s murder to knowingly bring a contagious disease into a care facility.

    This shit gets nursing homes shut down.

    1. Casper Lives*

      Well if you read above, placing any blame or personal responsibility on the new hire means you don’t understand. It means you’ve never had to rely on family to take you in or eaten cheese rice. According to all of the commenters above!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I love when people challenge my understanding of poverty, given my extensive personal knowledge dating back family generations of being poor peasants throughout history, it took us until this generation to get one of us that broke the crest into “lower” middle class. It’s preciously privileged to think that way but they’ll never understand that, they’re too wrapped up in themselves to notice.

  23. Summersun*

    #5, I have a resume gap so long that people assume I birthed and raised a child to kindergarten age. You’re fine.

  24. Pomegranate*

    #4 – I wouldn’t be comfortable about being recorded during an interview. Especially, if I either didn’t know or was only told at the start of the interview. It should be, at the very least, disclosed prior to the interview when you are scheduling things. At this point, you can ask them how the video will be used and how/for how long it will be stored. My concerns wouldn’t be with the employer coming back later and saying “you said you can groom a llama in 14 minutes but it’s been taking you 20!”, but I got privacy concerns. With the advances of AI and facial recognition, I don’t see a reason to have a recording of my interview float in the digital universe forever more. I think if I got well thought out answers about the recording reason/storage/privacy protection, I might be ok with it. If I were desperate for a job, it would make me so torn.

    1. Actual Vampire*

      Out of curiosity (and wondering if this is something I should be concerned about too!)… could you connect the dots between your concerns? What do AI and facial recognition have to do with you being worried about your interview being recorded? What do you fear would happen?

      1. Pomegranate*

        If there are no obvious and reasonable controls on who stores the video and who has access to it, it can become part of the general data that can be mined for information. Just like surveillance photos and videos, random youtube clips, etc. have potential to become the source material. I’m not a fan of adding data points for the existing and upcoming AI systems to learn more about me. The same concern would go to the interviewers on the video call as well, if their video stream is also recorded. Do they understand where this video will end up 10 years later?
        Facial recognition systems as a concept are full of privacy concerns depending on who is using them and for what reason. One of the current concerns is facial recognition in policing. While recording an interview may not be part of this issue, other issues are bound to crop up in the future.

    2. Lizzo*

      I share your concerns. There would need to be a perfectly good reason for doing it, and care and concern shown for my privacy. How they handle this would be indicative of how they might handle other sensitive things in the future.

      1. Pomegranate*

        Lizzo, good point about this being indicative of how the company might handle sensitive information in the future and how committed they are to general privacy protection practices.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, my primary concern would be contributing to normalizing the “if something survellance-y makes you uncomfortable, you must do the work of opting out and be cross examined about why” attitude that sometimes crops up if you say you don’t, for example, want to be tagged in facebook photos, recorded during an interview, etc.

    3. Observer*

      I do agree that the decision to record needs to be well thought out, and the company needs to have reasonable controls in place to safeguard these recordings.

  25. Eether Eyether*

    LW #1 You can report the nursing home to the ombudsman. The contact information should be displayed somewhere in the nursing home.

    1. OP1*

      Report them for what exactly? I’m all on board if there is something reporting-worthy, but AFAIK they are technically not doing anything wrong.

  26. Brett*

    #1
    This is only tangentially related, but I wanted to vent about a new set of policies our county executive put in place that is best intentioned, but will have similar negative repercussions.

    – Anyone who gets a COVID-19 test is required to quarantine at home until they receive the results of the test.

    – All test records and results taken inside the county must be forwarded to the health department for quarantine enforcement.

    Unsurprisingly, testing has plummeted in the past week. (To make this worse, COVID records held by the state or county health departments _are_ subject to sunshine laws in our start and are not confidential. So the second policy means that you COVID test records are public record now even if you go to a private provider inside the county.)

    1. Quill*

      Sounds like a cobra problem if I’ve ever heard of one. (Cobra problem not COBRA: term for a system where perverse incentives create the opposite of what they were intended to do. Named after a possibly apocryphal incident when Britain occupied India, put a bounty on cobra heads to encourage wiping them out, ended up starting a small cobra breeding industry.)

  27. Sarah in Philly*

    re: LW1:
    I work in healthcare. Yes, these laws are problematic (as is the culture within healthcare work to barely take sick days, don’t even get me started!). However, I think your sister and a few others should go to the administration and ask them to make sure that everyone has adequate sick time AND that sick time can be taken “on credit” aka even if you haven’t earned it yet. Or, alternately, allow anyone to take unlimited sick time between a known COVID exposure and a test. Hopefully, using language Allison often recommends, your sister can help her employer realize that “we” are putting our patients at risk by forcing employees to pick between a paycheck and patient care.

  28. OhBehave*

    There should be paid leave for COVID. The employer needs to have safeguards in place such as temp taking before an employee starts a shift and leaves.

    However, I have little sympathy for this employee. I’m sorry if that seems harsh. I certainly am not one who could get by without pay. But there are bigger things at play here. In our town one nursing home had 10 deaths and 25 positive cases. In another city south of us had 50 cases with 24 deaths. It literally spread like wildfire through these homes. Everyone knows this population is most at risk.

  29. Not A Manager*

    I wonder if the people who are all like, “personal responsibility!1!!1 I would rather die homeless than go to work sick” are the same people who espouse “a six hundred dollar emergency unemployment increase will incentivize lazy people to avoid working.”

    People are perfectly capable of understanding the principal of economic incentives when the conclusion is “don’t give people money because it makes them lazy.” Why is it so hard to understand “maybe you need to give people money if you actually WANT THEM TO STAY HOME FROM WORK”?

    And I don’t give a rats ass what you would do if you worked a minimum wage job, had dependents, got no paid sick leave and felt unwell. I’m suuuuuure you’d stay home from work Jan I mean Mother Teresa. The point of economic arguments is how they change people’s behavior in the aggregate. I think most of us can agree that whatever you personally would do under those circumstances, SOME people would choose to work and feed their families. Some non-trivial number of people who will then get you or your loved ones sick too.

    I’ll concede, for the sake of argument, that those people are terrible immoral human beings (just kidding, no I don’t), but it doesn’t change the fact that “starve or work” tends to force people to choose work. As is explained to us many times by folks who generally think that’s a great social policy.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      If I could post gifs here, this would get a great big honking applause gif! Sine I can’t post a gif, I’ll just say this: OMG, YES!!!!!!!

      1. Not A Manager*

        “Knowingly” packs a lot of punch here. “I have a high fever and tested positive for COVID, I think I’ll go infect my co-workers”? Sure.

        “I have symptoms that I’ve had before that usually clear up quickly and are manageable by OTC meds, I have no idea what this actually is, I’ll have to pay out of pocket if my COVID test is negative AND I’ll have to stay home from work unpaid until the results come back”? That’s a lot more iffy.

  30. CW*

    #5 – Alison’s answer was straight to the point. Just exclude it, it was long ago and you have held a job longer since. They won’t care about that short gap.

  31. K in Boston*

    #3 makes me think of a story I heard at a previous job, where our company was hiring for a web developer. The interviewer had to get permission from HR and IT to view the candidate’s work, which included a porn site.

    We all had offices, but a good deal of people shared their office with at least one other person. If the interviewer shared an office…I hope they had a very good relationship with their office-mate. “Hey, so heads up, I need to do some interview prep and you might not want to be here for it…”

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

      Ha! Porn sites are actually pretty demanding in terms of infrastructure and availability and so on, so hiring someone especially for a backend engineer (no jokes please) position who had worked on porn sites who had demonstrated ability in keeping the website up and running even with high demand etc, would be a quality hire!

      For IT people (I’m including myself in this) we generally don’t care what the ‘content’ is. Data is data is data! Whether it’s a porn site, online gambling, bitcoin trading, whatever it is… we really just care about things like % uptime, we don’t even really notice what the ‘content’ is most of the time.

  32. Lyric Mender*

    On LW 1, Alison’s response says 5-7 days for test results. I live in a Capital city with 250,000 people, and my test still hasn’t come back yet. It’s been 13 days. I assume I’m positive and have been staying home even with no symptoms. It’s hard to justify what’s right and make rules when testing is so bogged down, you get your test results WEEKS later. It’s a problem with the system overall, not just the employee’s actions (though going to work with a fever in this current climate is not a smart idea).

    1. emmelemm*

      Yeah, I’m in a very major metropolitan area and my BIL was exposed at work, so he had the test and was quarantined at home. They said the test would come back in “14 days or less”, but it’s now been more than 14 days and the results haven’t come back. Seeing as how he’s had no symptoms in these 14 days, one assumes the test is negative. But this is ridiculous.

    2. Wake Me When Its Over*

      Waiting this long defeats the entire purpose of testing. You could have been negative at the time of that test and positive now. Or vice-versa. In any event, suck long waiths for test results serves no public health purpose. All tests should be rapid results, or they are pretty much just performative.

  33. Tidewater 4-1009*

    The exclusion of health care workers from paid leave related to covid is so egregious, I have to wonder if there’s a hidden motive there. I can’t imagine what it would be. Usually such things are about money.
    Is anyone making more money from health care workers coming to work sick and spreading covid? Yes, of course. Employers don’t have to pay for their leave. More people getting sick means more revenue for the medical industry.

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      It’s about money. It’s about money for the perpetrators – the companies, and in a way society. It’s also about gender and race – overall we (particularly conservatives and the GOP, but also our U.S. society as a whole that I am part of ) care less about women’s wellbeing and the wellbeing of non-white people.

      There is nothing hidden here – it’s clear. The pandemic has just made it even more apparent.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        It’s only recently I’ve really begun understanding this stuff. I used to see such stupid things and say “why are the lawmakers so stupid? How could they do something so wrong?”
        It seems hidden because they don’t come out and say what they’re doing. They pretend they’re not doing this, and many people don’t want to see it. They want to think lawmakers care about us and our country. It never gets called out and recognized on a large scale and most Americans don’t see it.
        I think that’s why I took so long to see it. I couldn’t cope with it emotionally, that lawmakers don’t care about any of us at all.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I think some lawmakers definitely do care. I know some personally that do. But a MAJORITY of the lawmakers in a legislative body (like Congress) have to care about something in order for laws to get passed.

          The problem is not that NO lawmakers care. It’s that NOT ENOUGH of them do. :-(

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Lobbyist lobby on behalf of the businesses they are lobbying for. Those businesses pay the lobbyist.

      It’s not a hidden motive. It is all about money – paying workers as little as possible and giving them the fewest benefits as possible

    3. Eirene*

      I think it’s more that nursing homes tend to be staffed at the bare minimum to begin with, the purpose of which is to save money – but it’s short-sighted, of course, because then you wind up with either staff calling out (putting the load on those who haven’t) or coming into work sick (because they can’t afford not to or because the pressure from coworkers/management is so high). It’s the way that these places are structured, and factoring in how few of them also have adequate PPE – which costs more money – it’s a wonder that this isn’t worse on a widespread basis.

      My brother is a nurse in a nursing home. I worry about him and I worry about his patients. But I also understand why people do the things that they do. This isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s just shitty all around.

      1. Wake Me When Its Over*

        State law generally governs required nursing home staffing levels. However, enforcement is another thing. Families must be vigilant in obeserving low staffing and reporting it to the state.

  34. Secretary*

    LW#1: I’m going through this right now!!
    I’m currently in isolation due to my husband and I both having symptoms of COVID and we’re waiting on test results. My boss was pissed when I told him. He tried to blame my symptoms on my sleep schedule that he knows nothing about, and told me I don’t have COVID and I should be coming to work. I had to get a doctor’s note and it’s really lucky I had a bunch of PTO saved up in case I test negative, because I think it will be a battle to get him to pay me for the time I’m out.
    I was really happy at my job and we were told if we had symptoms to stay home, and were using PPE. Now I’m job searching. SO messed up! I’m not a healthcare worker either! I can’t imagine what I would have done without the political capital to push back.

  35. Nursing Home Management*

    LW #1, that’s truly awful. Shame on the employer (assuming they have less than 500 employees). I work in accounting at a nursing home management company. As a healthcare provider, we are *allowed* to exclude ourselves from the FFCRA paid leave requirements, but we can also choose to opt in and allow employees paid leave under the act. The leave is paid for by the federal government through payroll tax credits, so it is not a financial hardship. It can be difficult to find adequate staff at times if you have multiple employees with tests pending, but that is better than the alternative of sick employees coming to work and spreading the virus. Our intention is to opt out only an individual employee basis, and only if/when it becomes impossible to staff our buildings otherwise. Basically, the opt out is meant to be an absolute last resort.

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