update: my company won’t pay us if we don’t install spy software on our personal computers

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day this week — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose company wouldn’t pay them if they didn’t install spy software on their personal computers? (The company was a nominee for the Worst Boss of 2020.) Here’s the update.

Shortly after I wrote to you back in March, things with my company really took a turn for the worst. While the company originally said that they would be sending us each company laptops and that we would only need to download the tracking/monitoring software on personal devices temporarily while these laptops were shipped, they quickly retracted their statement and told us that we would never be provided with company computers and that we would need to install the tracking software on our personal computers permanently. If we refused, we would not receive pay for any work completed until the software was installed.

When it became clear that this software was becoming a permanent decision, I tried several of the solutions you offered in your response to my email. When the software was first announced, I tried to rally my coworkers into refusing to download the software. At first they were all on my side and agreed that the software was invasive, and another excuse for the company to dock our pay (a stunt they had already pulled when they began monitoring our locations through a time-clock app they made us download on our personal phones a few months earlier). At the meeting where the software was discussed, I spoke out and listed our concerns. The CEO was not backing down, so my coworkers gave up and unanimously decided to download the software. I still refused. I told HR point blank that the software could not and would not be installed on my personal computer. I asked several more times for a company laptop and they instead told me that I could break the shelter-in-place order in our city and get my work desktop from an office with several confirmed COVID cases.

Shortly after I made my “stand” to HR, I received a call from my direct supervisor after work hours. She was extremely angry at me, and was actually yelling. She told me that I should be thankful to have a job, and that I was “stupid” for picking a fight with HR. I told her I was sorry she felt that way, but reiterated in no uncertain terms that this software would not be put on my personal computer.

Meanwhile, my coworkers that had installed the software were getting their pay docked almost everyday because of issues with the software. Because we were dealing with 2 time zones (since the company headquarters were in a different country) the time tracking wasn’t working properly and HR refused to change their hours.

This whole thing culminated with me threatening legal action because HR refused to pay me for the work that I had done—work my supervisors assigned knowing I had not and would not be downloading the software.

I was finally furloughed after “plead[ing] technological ignorance” like you suggested. I told HR that the computer I was working from wasn’t mine, and that I did not have user authorization to download any additional software. I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back because I was furloughed a few days later.

One of the last things to happen before I was furloughed was that they wanted us all to install a google chrome extension called RPass that would store all the passwords on our computers. Again, because we were all working on personal computers it seemed like a really bad idea.

I was furloughed a few hours before my shift. Out of consideration, I emailed my supervisor to let her know. Right after I sent my email I received another call from her. HR and management had not informed her of their decision to furlough me. She was evidently irritated and addressed me with a great deal of condescension. She told me I needed to grovel to HR and beg for my job back. She was insistent that I needed to apologize to HR, and seethed when I told her that the decision was out of my hands.

At no point did HR ever give us answers as to why we needed to do this, because we already tracked all of the work we did and shared it with HR each day on Trello. HR also never took any steps to protect our data.

I’ve been monitoring the company a bit on social media since I was furloughed. They don’t seem to be wearing masks or socially distancing in the office, which is unsurprising since back in March my supervisor told me that Covid was a hoax. The company took away all employees’ sick days in January of 2020 and has not reinstated them as of yet. They also do not provide health insurance, despite the company promising it as part of each employee’s offer letter. I’m worried for my coworkers and hope they’re able to stay safe.

Last I heard my supervisor, the one who yelled at me and told me to grovel to HR, quit a few days ago because HR was docking her pay. From what I heard, she had a week-long arguing match with the CEO and HR before ultimately quitting during the middle of her shift.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

      1. Junger*

        Im pretty sure even Scrooge paid people for their hours worked. This company is worse than the villains of a christmas story.

        1. A Penguin of Ill Repute*

          Are we sure the “spirits” count as “ghosts”? (It’s been a while since I read the original so I’m not sure whether/how the distinction is made there.)

        2. Audrey Puffins*

          I just went back to the book for the first time in decades, there’s even a whole parade of ghosts in the sky that Scrooge sees as Marley leaves, so you are wise to be specific with “how many ghosts was Scrooge visited by”, because if you went with something like “how many ghosts were in the book” then the only possible answer would be “oh gosh, a whole bunch”. ;)

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I can’t help but suspect that too only because I can’t imagine otherwise why they would even want to take that much data. Having to manage all that that would be a lot, and I can’t imagine they have plans in place to control that data responsibly…

        1. Observer*

          I’m sure they don’t have any plans in place – and I would very, very surprised if they do any managing whatsoever.

          1. rmric0*

            They’d probably be better off if they weren’t doing any managing at all. This is probably someone in HR or the SEO getting sold on this tracking software and forcing it in everyone to justify a very pricey and bad decision.

      2. Emma*

        I think they’re just looking to get free work from employees, and imposing a bunch of bullshit requirements so they can illegally dock the pay of anyone who doesn’t meet them is a way of doing that.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      I kinda wonder if they’re run by the HR person from a previous employer. He was constantly telling us how we should be grateful to have jobs and that our employer was soooo generous. An example of this generosity? We were “allowed” to take FMLA leave, as required under the law. My team generated piles and piles of revenue on a regular basis. No. They should have been thankful anyone like us would work for them. I quit without another job lined up.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I wish Alison had a kind of fund that readers could contribute to so we could help each other in our struggles, like when crap like this goes down. Can I ask, how long were you in this dumpster fire? I wouldn’t have lasted a week at a company like that!

        1. CAAmazonQueenVelociraptor*

          Like Humans of New York? Awesome page, by the way. We could call it the Human Fund 2.0! Or Not Human fund, since it for people who actually want to work? Hmmm…think, Amazon Queen…think….

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            I LOVE Humans of NY! I like that name, the “Human Fund”. I’ve heard of commenters being able to help each other in the past, but I think Alison had to curate that, and I think she would be the best one to administer such a fund.

        2. boop the first*

          this conversation gave me a slight chuckle because you’re literally describing public healthcare and welfare XD If only everyone could talk all that money they’ve been forced to give to various stingy insurance companies and put it in a big account for people who need it! I’m glad that’s the usual first idea people come up with, because it does work, and it shows there is still care for each other.

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            :D I live in a socialist country so I guess that’s why? But more so because I have seen so much compassion in this group in the past year. We all get to a point where we need help.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP, I’m truly sorry for what you went through, but you behaved like a professional throughout.

      Best of luck in 2021 — may you update us soon with the news that you have a new job working for sane people.

    2. Prof. Kat*

      Agreed. It’s amazing to see someone who has the personality, determination, and — of course — the financial security to take this sort of stand.

      And LW, with respect to your former boss, I’ll paraphrase a favorite tweet and say that she clearly thought that Face-Eating Leopards, Inc. would never eat HER face! What a surprise!

      1. Student*

        The financial considerations for something like this cut both ways. Yes, it’s very hard to suddenly lose a paycheck.

        However – this company is demanding so much information that they put the security of the money you do have in danger. From OP’s description, these guys will be able to harvest your credit card info every time you buy something online, your bank log-in info if you do online banking, your account info for any number of online services you may use (could range from mundane but personal social media, to your Netflix account, to your car registration, to your income tax information and tax rebate info if you file online, your Venmo account…).

        Even if losing a job is a risky endeavor, trusting these guys with your personal information can also be a huge financial risk. If you have no savings and do no online stuff on the same computer, then maybe another few paychecks is worth the risk – but if you use your personal computer to do anything at all with money or purchases or payments, you put all of your assets and money at risk, not just several paychecks.

        1. Washi*

          Right, I would not trust these people to secure my data (and that much data!) in any kind of appropriate way.

        2. Eye roll*

          The first thing I thought when reading this is the massive financial exposure employees take with a tracking app on their personal computer… and given all other behavior from this employer, that this may be a feature rather than a bug. Combine that with finding a second tracking app that is so buggy that everyone gets their pay (illegally) docked some more and… I’m getting some criminal scam vibes.

        3. Wendy*

          Even if the OP had two computers, it would still be a bad idea–most browsers now share information between multiple computers used by the same person as the default. It would be very difficult to ensure that your “work” computer didn’t pick up your bookmarks, passwords, etc. unless you literally used it for nothing except work and never opened the internet for any reason :-\

        4. TardyTardis*

          I would buy an el cheapo rig from E-bay and tell them that’s my personal computer. Oh, you’re unhappy you don’t know my personal banking info? ‘I do that all on my phone’ (with these people, I’d be prepared to lie).

    3. Not A Girl Boss*

      Yes, OP, this is a seriously fantastic stand to take at great personal expense. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

      Although, it seems like their primary objective is to not pay their employees for work performed, so I wonder if really all the problems would have gone away if you gave in, or if they would have merely moved on to Phase 2 of their evil plan.

      1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        The behavior of this company is comically criminal in multiple aspects. Including but surely not limited to: Not paying people for work they performed. And not honoring the benefits they promised.

        1. PollyQ*

          I hope every single employee files a complaint with DOL every single time their pay is late or wrongly docked.

      2. M. Law*

        YES! I hope to see worst company or worst company policy award in future years. I don’t understand how any HR could defend this policy.

        Am I correct that no company can legally dock your pay for completed work or for not giving them access to your private computer files and passwords?

    1. Guacamole Bob*


      I don’t know the details of the rules, but aren’t most companies above a fairly small size required by law to provide health insurance under the ACA? Between that and the pay shenanigans I think some complaints to various state regulators are in order.

      1. university admin*

        Given the language about different time zones and countries, I’m guessing this may not be a US situation…

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          How many other countries have employer-provided health insurance and no mandated sick time, though? The US may not be the only one, but it does cut down the list quite a bit.

          1. justcourt*

            And no laws to protect employee privacy from employers who think they should be able to collect employee’s personal passwords and monitor their personal internet activity.

            Yeah, I’m getting a very American vibe from this employer.

            1. Observer*

              Considering that some of what this company is doing is illegal in the US as well, what the OP is describing doesn’t necessarily tell us what actual legal protections exist where they are.

        2. Sacred Ground*

          Doesn’t matter. If they’re doing business in the US, hiring US employees to do work in the US, they have to comply with US labor laws, weak as they are. This company must be pretty horrible if that’s somehow a hardship for them.

      2. AVP*

        That’s probably why they put it in the offer letter (so they have an “official document” they can point to) but they seem to be just daring their employees to report/sue them and making a bet that it’s cheaper to wait for that to happen than to provide their legal reqs.

      3. Short Time Lurker Komo*

        There are government fines talked about in the ACA if a company decides not to offer health insurance and should, and some companies have come out and said it was cheaper to pay the fines than to do health insurance.

    2. Nea*

      Yeah, seriously. The company was ALREADY tracking employees via their personal phones AND already docking pay and yet the other employees went along with a second, even buggier tracking app?

      OP, run! Run far. Run fast. Run screaming.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I, too, would like to change my vote based on new evidence that OP’s boss and company are both horrible in so many ways.

      Gloriosky. What an astoundingly awful employer and boss. Congrats on your escape, OP.

  1. Myrin*

    What an absolute trashfire but OP, you are a true hero! This might sound super strange and random from an internet stranger but I’m so, so, so proud of you and the way you stood up for yourself – you sound like an amazing person and a great, conscientious employee who will surely bring another employer great joy in the future and find great joy herself at a place who values her!

    1. Aldabra*

      Me too, that must have absolutely taken nerves of steel to stand up to so many people without giving a single inch. And you organized your coworkers, even if they didn’t have the same grit that you did. I’m in awe.

  2. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

    There is so much Nope in this letter, that it needs its own zip code.
    “They also do not provide health insurance”
    They want to collect the passwords on your personal computer.
    They don’t pay you for work you’ve completed.
    I know everything here is anonymous, but you can tell me…it’s the Triangle Shirt Company, right?

      1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Will Always Be Blue*

        it’s funny, I laughed too. But it’s so sad that here proof exists that without the laws and regulations we have, many employers would be as dismissive and uncaring as they were, back in the day.

    1. RVA Cat*

      That comment is FIRE!
      Seriously though this company’s next logical step is paying in company scrip instead of money. Didn’t some actual employers try this crap with gift cards?

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Please accept this trophy for Best Internet Comment of the Day. The internet will now be closed until tomorrow.

          1. Aquawoman*

            LOL, northeasterner here too, and when the OP got to the aprt where their supervisor told them to grovel for their job back, I thought “and then you told them to eff off.”

      1. Quill (The Goats)*

        Every single one of my elderly lady relatives and/or their ghosts just nodded over tiny cups of coffee.

      2. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I’ll go full Minnesotan and say that this company isn’t just interesting. It’s…different.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          You didn’t.

          For those of you who don’t speak Minnesotan, that’s a serious escalation. Hoo boy.

  3. DiscoTechie*

    Yikes to the double Yikes! You handled that train wreck as well as could be handled. Hope something better pops up for you in the future.

  4. many bells down*

    Wow it’s maybe a good thing we didn’t have this update before voting because this puts it over the freaking TOP.

  5. Gigi*

    Damn. I feel like we need to overturn the Worst Boss results and elect this one. Good luck to you, OP. You’re way better off without these glassbowls.

    1. Clorinda*

      How di they not win this thing in a landslide?? Election fraud!
      Also: some offices are full of bees. This one has gone full Murder Hornet.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        [softly raises my typical defense of the japanese giant hornet being less fatal per year than the european yellowjacket and we don’t call yellowjackets murder wasps]

          1. KoiFeeder*

            That was “we” in the general sense. Yellowjackets chewed a hole into my bedroom once, the names I call them are highly unflattering.

            1. Luke G*

              I figured, I was just having a laugh :) And yikes, I only encounter them outdoors, never the breaking-and-entering version!

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Yeah, the only ones I’ve ever encountered are the kind that try to dive into a can of soda like tiny kamikaze piots!

    2. Ms Yvonne*

      SERIOUSLY. If we’d only had this update last week.
      – LW’s boss: pos
      – LW’s HR: pos
      – LW’s CEO: pos

    3. Dadolwch*

      Seriously! Maybe Alison can bump it up to a Special Award for worst ongoing company of the year. I hope OP and their coworkers file a class action lawsuit against these bungholes.

      1. Bazinga*

        Some kind of special 2020 “Dumpster Fire” award is warranted here. Like “in a terrible year, you’re the terriblest. Congrats!”

  6. Pretzelgirl*

    Personally OP, unless you *really* want to go back I would forward them the post that they were nominated for Worst Boss of the year!

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I would absolutely be tempted to do this. That place sounds like actual hell.

      OP, congratulations for standing up for yourself – even if you didn’t get the results you wanted, you know for sure that you acted with integrity through all of this. And I’m sure some of your former coworkers know that too, even if they don’t have the courage you have. Wishing you the best of luck in your job search!

  7. mcfizzle*

    What a circus. I’m so glad you stood your ground, despite the enormous cost to you. Sounds like you couldn’t “win” regardless of what you may have done.

    Maybe this company needs it’s own “worst category” award for being worst at literally everything.

  8. Jaybeetee*

    What the holy hell. I sorta wish we’d gotten this before the Worst Boss vote.

    I know people are always asking if stuff is legal, and the answer is usually “yes”, but… is this all legal?? In America?? In 2020?? Do they also lock the doors from the outside when people are working on-site? Do they time your bathroom breaks?

    1. MarsJenkar*

      Honestly, I would be shocked if there wasn’t at least one illegal act by the company here. In fact, I would be shocked if there were *only* one illegal act by this company, and I’m not even talking outside the scope of these letters.

        1. Jenny*

          100% this. An employment lawyer would have a field day with this place. But I suspect given the mismanagement it’d be a “blood from a stone” thing. LW may look into whether they can file with complaint a state agency if there are outstanding unpaid hours worked.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, definitely. I’d bet there are more violations too, which a lawyer will uncover by asking the right questions. (Possibly retaliation for legally protected behavior too, and who knows what else.)

    2. Esmeralda*

      No, they only lock doors at poultry processing plants. If you aren’t doing grim 19th century type work, you can probably get out the doors.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        My son just learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. I then explained the Hamlet chicken processing plant fire was in my adult lifetime (1991) and not far from where I lived at the time. I’m still mad that the owner got out of jail in 4 years.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          OP, it really says something when your description of your company makes people think about ‘Triangle Shirtwaist’ and ‘Hamlet Chicken Processing.’ Glad you’re out.

        2. DyneinWalking*

          THANK YOU for clearing up what the reference in a different comment was about. I live in Europe and had no clue what I should even google for…

          Except now I have to live with this gruesome bit of information… So after they were mandated to leave the doors unlocked after that horrible fire, they just blocked them with machines?! Why?!!! Utter psychopaths!
          I know comments on violence are not appreciated here, but oh god now want to go back in time and kill those company owners. With fire.
          Doesn’t even have to be a long-lasting fire. Just for, oh, let’s say 30 minutes.

          With the doors locked.

    3. Student*

      “Do they also lock the doors from the outside when people are working on-site?”

      Fun fact – there are some situations where this is still legal to do in the US. It is terribly dangerous, of course. If you find yourself in such a job, I recommend getting your resume cleaned up immediately, and re-thinking your life choices. That’s what I did when I found myself rather involuntarily and unexpectedly locked in a concrete room for several hours with some very grumpy co-workers, during what I thought would be a normal lab work day.

      Also a warning sign: when a job tries to hide the fact that they can and will occasionally and suddenly lock you up. Doesn’t give warm and fuzzy feelings when you eventually find out about it the hard way.

      1. Dream Jobbed*

        Student – can you give an example or two where this is legal? I can’t imagine fire marshall’s being okay with it.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          I’m curious too. The only thing I can think of would be working with dangerous pathogens – but that’s not a concrete room, usually. That’s like, you are in a positive-pressure space suit, and you would very much not want people to be able to breeze in and out.

  9. Amethystmoon*

    This is truly a terrible employer. Is that reporter still looking for Covid work stories? Maybe a public shaming would make them improve things. Or if they go out of business, at least it would be karma.

    1. JC*

      I would agree- name and shame the company, write about it on glassdoor and report the details to any local or regional newspapers. This whole thing is horrendous!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I’m sure everyone who is job hunting right now would really like to avoid applying to this hellmouth.

  10. Tehanu*

    what a trashcan fire of a company. I am sorry you went through this, I am glad you are out. I want to know the name of the employer so I can avoid them for all my days.

    1. Antennapedia*

      Right? if ever there were a situation where an employer needed to be named and shamed, it’s this one. Between the update and the orignal letter there are, like, 15 US labor law violations.

  11. Dasein9*

    Yeah, this employer needs to be reported to whatever regulatory agencies exist in your region. And to professional organizations, if that’s applicable.

    1. Luke G*

      At first, I read “regulatory agencies” as “retaliatory agencies.”

      And honestly OP should probably go ahead and report this place to both groups…

  12. RCB*

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE name and shame this company, we need to make this behavior known so they can face repercussions. It’s obvious that they won’t listen to the employees, so let the public do its part to help protect this workforce, not that the company will survive anyways because once this becomes known the DOL is going to fine them out of existence.

      1. Stormfeather*

        This is what I was thinking. I know in a lot of cases anonymity is good, but here? No. These people are not only making their employees miserable and intruding on their private lives but also breaking laws and putting people at risk for illness up to and including death.

    1. VivaVaruna*

      I’m a low-level peon at a company that wasn’t a household name a year ago, but certainly is now, and some of this sounds *very* familiar. We have to have location tracking installed on our personal phones (there’s an actual good reason for it–we are not usually in the same place as our direct supervisors and other people at my level have been let go for time theft because they punched in but were not onsite working as scheduled). We are also not usually provided with company computers/devices and must provide our own to use, although there are individual regions where this is not the case, and those at higher levels than I am have company Macbooks and Chromebooks.

      We definitely *do* have health insurance, though, so I don’t think it’s my company. But it may be one in a similar field or with a similar background.

  13. emeemay*

    look I know it’s against general policy but I desperately want a name and shame for this company because holy sh*tb*lls

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I sure hope they’re not. OP, you deserve a workplace that’s not abusing or taking advantage of you. I hope you find someplace wonderful to work next.

  14. Dave*

    I am not super sue your former employer fan because it can cause problems in getting a new job in the industry, but if you did not get paid for time worked I would definitely be reporting them. If had any attorney friends who do employment law I would probably be asking them if they thought I had a case. (Though at some point it would be a mini class action if they never did fix peoples pay for hours worked.) I am glad you made it out of there at least.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’m sure you meant to write “super sure” but I love your typo because I would suggest OP “super sue” this company.

      1. BubbleTea*

        No, I think sue was correct – Dave isn’t usually a fan of suing employers because it can cause problems in the future, but in this case it would be worth it.

  15. Elenna*

    I like how your manager was all “you should grovel to HR” as if a) it hasn’t occurred to you that joblessness was bad before she helpfully informed you of that and b) your #1 priority in life was keeping this crappy job with it’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad higher-ups. Did it occur to her that maybe, just maybe, you might… know what you’re doing? Apparently not.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I found it HILAROUS that manager lost HER job after fighting with HR over unpaid work because the software she was forcing OP to get was bad. Guess she didn’t grovel to HR hard enough. Ahhh Karma sometimes she is a lovely lady.

      1. HD*

        I noticed that too. Apparently OP should be grateful to have a job, but the manager is under no such obligation.

    2. wendelenn*

      Upvote (if I could) for “Terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad.” I bet this job is not in Australia.

    3. linger*

      The manager was so adamant on this as to make it likely she had either been offered an incentive for getting employees to comply, or threatened with pay cut for failure to do so. Manager’s own job security depended on getting 100% compliance; she failed.

  16. LKW*

    There are so so so many unanswered questions for me and not just the “why” but who is managing this? What access do they have, what recourse would someone have if they went into your personal files or used personal account information? There is so much wrong with this I am alarmed at how much of an overreach this is and how your coworkers were (understandably) cowed into this.

    What strikes me is the attitude that this was necessary to watch over workers but no one ever put a plan in place to watch the watchers (who are also workers).

    Good for you for having a titanium spine.

  17. Lauren*

    Wow this company needs to be named and shamed and reported to the relevant Labor agency. This is an invasion of privacy and they are stealing worker’s wages.

  18. NW Mossy*

    Man, this company really yearns for the good old days of indentured servitude!

    Glad you’re out of there, OP, and good for you on holding firm even when everyone around you wasn’t. Best wishes to you for sane, reasonable employment in 2021 and beyond.

    1. Firecat*

      My spouse and I just talked about how one of the biggest issue with the American economy was that it was built on slavery and has been chasing it ever since.

      First slavery, then child labor, then gender disparity, then vulnerable undocumented immigrates, then global outsourcing to countries with poor protections…

  19. sam*

    This employer is so terrible in so many ways that it was probably never possible to reason with them, but on the original issue, I get that providing employees with laptops is an expense, especially in a wild emergency situation like COVID was in March, but expecting employees to use personal laptops is not only bad for employees, IT’S BAD FOR EMPLOYERS – the level of informational insecurity involved in having that much potentially confidential/business information floating around on personal devices is…extremely problematic.

    Companies are much better off ditching desktops altogether (unless there’s a specific need for that kind of setup) and providing all employees with laptops and docking stations at work, and then they can take their “work” computers home with them when necessary. This has been the setup at most employers that I’ve worked at for the past decade.

    My work laptops are locked down with several levels of encryption, require me to use multi-factor authentication to log in, and require administrator access to install software so that I don’t start downloading a boatload of personal crap.

    We do use our personal mobile devices, but only for email, and we use a separate walled off email program (blackberry work) that is also encrypted and that we have to separately log into so that there’s no “cross-contamination” with our personal…stuff.

    and to be clear, I’m a lawyer that works for a company that deals with a significant amount of customer data and PII. this is baseline. and I’m sitting at home typing this on my personal computer, which sits right next to my work computer on my makeshift work-from-home desk.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      That was part of what was so odd about it. Do you really want software taking random screenshots of what people are doing on the internet on their own time and making that the company’s problem to store and control access to? Banking information, health info, student records for people’s kids, credit card info on shopping sites… there is so much that can so easily go horribly wrong, and it’s really weird that a company would even want to put themselves in that position.

      1. Observer*

        Are you kidding? They probably LIKE having that stuff – gives them something else to hold over people.

        As for worrying about keeping this information safe, why would you even think that they would make even a token effort. The OP has made it clear that they aren’t being careful with anything they already have. There is no reason to believe that adding some more stuff is going to change their mindset.

      2. Carlie*

        Not just student records – if the kids are using the personal home computer for online school, now the company has unapproved video recordings of minors. I can’t imagine that being a good idea.

    2. Cj*

      I work for a CPA firm, and we are not allowed to use our personal laptops, either, for security reasons. Most of us have better laptops than what the firm provides and we’d actually prefer to use them. Not with tracking software of them, though!

    3. 3DogNight*

      There are micro-desktops that could be used with a monitor at a home location. They can attach to the back of the monitor via a VESA mount. Not as convenient as a laptop, but would absolutely work. (Plus, cheaper than a laptop!).
      This whole situation is banana crackers.

      1. Berkeleyfarm*

        Yes, we deployed a lot of “stick PCs” to our essential staff when we had to switch to WFH. They were easier to obtain in Feb/March/April when there was a huge run on laptops world-wide. (Anyone who asked us for one after our stock was assigned had to wait for a long time.)

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      It kinda makes me want to get a job working for that company, get a cheap used laptop that I use for nothing else, go find a public wifi spot, and just… see what happens.

    5. HD*

      “IT’S BAD FOR EMPLOYERS – the level of informational insecurity involved in having that much potentially confidential/business information floating around on personal devices is…extremely problematic.”

      Yeah, I’m really curious what they plan on doing with all this data. I assume the plan is to sell or give it away to whoever makes this invasive software. What else good would it do to have their employees’ banking information or credit card logins? Are they going to go in and steal money from them in an incredibly obvious way?

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Companies are much better off ditching desktops altogether (unless there’s a specific need for that kind of setup) and providing all employees with laptops and docking stations at work, and then they can take their “work” computers home with them when necessary.

      Excellent point. This is what Exjob did, and we had those random password generator tokens to log onto the VPN, to protect our client information (banking industry). They even provided backpacks to everyone so we could take our laptops home when inclement weather was expected.

      It’s not that difficult for a competent IT department to set up a secure VPN. It’s worth the cost to secure your company information.

  20. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I’m an American sitting in Germany and my German husband asks, “Is this company in a third world country?” and I let him know that after having lived in several, professional life in most is far better. This is the worst letter of the decade.

    1. LKW*

      Well Germany has long been the leader in individual digital privacy. I mean, for anyone implementing software or processes German law is a pain to deal with but it’s simply something to manage. In this case all I could think was “this company clearly does not operate in Germany.” The lack of controls is frightening.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        It’s true. I know very few people who even trust online banking here. There are definitely some perks, especially those local legal advocates you can report fraud/bad business practices to here (I forget the name?) It was only this year I learned that the BBB in America isn’t actually a government regulator…
        And, not knowing if you are German, the first thing I thought when I saw your username was “Lastkraftwagen” so, truck?

      2. Mockingjay*

        LeberkaesWeckle? The Leberkaes sandwiches my kids loved, abbreviated LKW? (Forgive my spelling, I was never fully fluent.)

        1. LKW*

          No, just my initials, although I do like the idea of being a truck or sandwich. Perhaps I am a sandwich truck.

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            Lol I am also NOT fluent, but speaking of sandwich trucks, they do have food trucks with rotisserie grills here that park at different grocery stores every day on rotation and have 6 foot long/4 foot tall roast chickens on the tops of them. They also sell racks of ribs, sausages (of course), and soft pretzels, and they use a giant cleaver to hack the chickens in half for “singles”. My dog has come to adore that chicken truck.

  21. Anonapots*

    Normally I would fully understand not naming and shaming, but this is too egregious to let fly. OP, I’m impressed with your courage and tenacity to Not Back Down. I hope you can share the company name somewhere so people can avoid them like the shitty plague carriers they are.

  22. Veryanon*

    As an HR professional, I can’t imagine working for this dumpster fire of a company. There’s so much wrong here, starting with blatant wage and hour law infractions. Not paying you for time already worked? I’d contact your state’s DOL and file a claim. Taking away sick days you were already promised? I’m pretty sure that would also be illegal, at least in some states (California comes to mind as I believe paid time off in CA is considered earned compensation). Not providing health insurance? I’m not an ACA expert, but I think that might also be illegal, depending on how large your company is. I really hope you consulted with a labor attorney regarding any claims you might have. I hope you’re able to find a better job soon. Yikes.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Vacation is earned income in CA, but sick leave is not, unless you do “one bucket” PTO, in which case my understanding it’s all treated like “vacation”. But CA also has minimum paid sick days, so if they are in CA, they’re doing it wrong anyway with the “no sick days” business. Just breaking a different law.

  23. Observer*

    OP, if you are in the US, please report them to the DOL. And check if there are any local laws that you could reprort.

    I hope you’re looking hard for a new job.

  24. Lovecraft Beauty*

    I sincerely and with malice aforethought hope the DOL comes down on this company like a ton of bricks.

  25. Jubilance*

    This is one of the times where I wish the company was named and shamed! This is absolutely ridiculous.

  26. Keymaster of Gozer*

    *rages in IT department speak*

    Never in my life have I wanted a management team to have a nasty boot sector virus from my collection before. They wanted your passwords too?!

    I’m seriously suggesting that former coworkers check their bank accounts etc. to make sure that this company hasn’t grabbed their personal details and is helping themselves to their staff’s money – they’ve shown they have no problem with stealing their pay.

    To OP: I applaud your conviction, seriously. That’s the kind of ‘I’m not doing something dangerous even if you order me’ attitude I hire for. Make sure you take care of yourself, escaping from a toxic environment can require mental health time.

    1. Sarra N. Dipity*

      OP, I’d be changing ALL my passwords, EVERYWHERE at this point. The company required invasive software on your personal cell phones – who knows what else that software did? Given the other shitfuckery the company engaged in, I’d be extremely paranoid at this point.

      1. Observer*

        Good point. Also, reset your phone.

        Factory reset then reinstall everything from scratch. Don’t keep configurations if you can avoid it.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yep. I’m normally not a fan of paranoia but in this case I think the company has shown it has zero morals left.

    2. Brett*

      I could totally imagine this company going into a former employee’s bank account to retroactively dock pay.

  27. Salty Former Librarian*

    I left my last job because they insisted on using a phone clock-in software. The terms and agreements gave the third party software company the right to review any files and passwords and stored data on our personal devices, and to sell it to further third parties without notification. This was more than “This is a samsung galaxy,” but along the lines of GPS information, live tracking, app usage, searched terms, etc.

    I left the job, at a public library (Where privacy should be paramount) and was really boggled by admin’s decisions. I assume the software came with significant financial incentives of some sort for companies/employers that use it. It would seem that this kind of thing is becoming more common, too.

    1. TiffIf*

      When my company insisted that to have work chat/email on our personal phones we had to install a security thing that would allow our company to remote wipe our personal devices, I said no thanks and uninstalled any work chat/email from my phone and straight up told my supervisor that I would be happy to install such a thing on a work provided phone. He agreed with me and said his position was the same. I don’t have a work issued phone and therefore no phone access to work chat or email. My supervisor has my number to call or text me in an off hours emergency.

      This is how it should work.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      A lot of info is tied to your social security #. For instance, you’d be surprised at the information ADP has if you’ve ever worked someplace that uses them, whether your employer used the mobile timekeeping app or not (they can know where you’ve recently made a credit card purchase). And they don’t get rid of your info either so if you go to a new employer that uses them, you can just log back in…

  28. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Sure that boss wasn’t Kim Jong Un or Kim Yo-Jong? (His younger sister that runs his propaganda and spy machinations). I mean, constant personal surveillance…

    Also I will admit to watching adult content on personal devices so that’s why this would be a hard no. My boss doesn’t need to know what kind of things I’m into!

    1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      Yes, this is way worse than the “winner” whose only crime was bad messaging around an actually reasonable reduction of hours.

      1. Seriously*

        There was no world in which that reduction of hours was reasonable. It was selfish, mean-spirited, and short-sighted.

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          I acknowledge that my opinion is not common, since people literally voted on it and the majority agreed with you.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            I’m with you; to me it sounded like they were already planning on cutting hours and tried to do it in a way that would minimize the financial hurt to the employees. Whether it was the right call is certainly debatable but I definitely don’t think anywhere near worst boss of the year material given the truly monstrous stuff we have seen during this pandemic.

    2. Paris Geller*

      Yeah, both this & the winner were and are horrible, but if all these details had been known when we voted. . . I’d be voting for this choice, no question.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I missed the worst boss post and some of the voting due to Mom’s stroke; I need to go back and read all the awful boss letters.
      (Off-topic update: she’s doing really well and will actually be home on Friday)

  29. BRR*

    It will never cease to shock me how many people operate with the CEO’s/HR’s/Manager’s mindset. I guess it’s summed up as the way some people think of employees/employment but specifically here it’s the distrust (installing spy software), the ridiculous demands of the employees (it needs to be on your personal computer), and the vindictiveness. I know the type of person who thinks like this (and who would say no insurance and no sick leave) but I can never accept it as a way of operating.

  30. Brett*

    “a stunt they had already pulled when they began monitoring our locations through a time-clock app they made us download on our personal phones a few months earlier”

    Wow. This is probably way more serious than the spy software. This is a concept called “geoslavery”, and employing it coercively in the workplace is a _severe_ ethical violation. So much so that the person who implemented the software could lose their professional certification in the geospatial industry (which they likely do not have in the first place).

  31. Nea*

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen as big and long a parade of red flags about a business as I have seen in this letter. RUN. RUN FAR. RUN FAST. RUN SCREAMING.

  32. Lucious*

    I. Am. Shocked.

    But not surprised. I’ve seen Marine Corps platoons run with more empathy than the LWs “employer”. I use quotations as I doubt an org that’s OK with timecard fraud will follow any other regulation.

    LW should probably consult an employment lawyer ASAP, as odds are this place is probably A) violating other laws and B) they’re probably entitled to back pay which will require legal action to collect on and C) if this “firm” is docking pay , odds are it’s financially circling the drain. Wait too long and this chop shop might close down.

    Finally- you’re better than this gang calling itself a company LW! Take comfort -if nothing else, your next job will be a better one then this!

  33. TPS reporter*

    stay strong! You are awesome for taking this stand. I hope you have or are finding other opportunities!

  34. AuntAmy*

    This is like Dennis Feinstein from Parks and Rec levels of comically villainous. I am so glad you’re out! Maybe we’ll all hear about this company on a podcast series one day.

  35. Project Manager here*

    Depending on exactly what country headquarters and HR are in, you may consider reporting this to that country’s equivalent of the DoL as well.

    1. virago*

      It’s not in the European Union — countries in the EU have too many privacy protections for that to fly.

      I’m leaning toward the good old US of A, alas. A lot of that language is very familiar from previous letters.

  36. Bob*

    One could play them, use an old crummy slow laptop that has been refreshed and the hard drive(s) wiped with software that prevents file recovery. Use it for work only. And if you want to be mean intentionally use it for crazy things. Is SETI at home still a thing?
    “The computer takes forever to load because my wages were not enough to buy a new one pre pandemic, boss”. Since we are not getting company laptops and this is my personal computer i can’t make it faster without a raise to buy a new one.
    And use an old cell phone that has been factory reset several times and has nothing else on it.

    That said i could not work for this place, no one gets access to my personal info/data and certainly not an employer.

  37. Sarra N. Dipity*

    OP, I’d be changing ALL my passwords, EVERYWHERE at this point. The crap they tried to pull everywhere else would make me extremely paranoid. The company required invasive software on your personal cell phone – who knows what else that software did?

  38. Granny K*

    They wanted to capture your passwords on a personal computer?!?! So if I’m entering my password for my bank account they would get it? How would they justify this?
    I’m sorry you were furloughed but at least you’ll get unemployment. Hang in there…

  39. Ladycrim*

    Wow. We may need to do a revote on Worst Boss with this information. Glad you’re out of there, and I hope you find something better soon if you haven’t already.

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      Maybe a special award for Worst Company? It goes all the way up the chain.

      Absolutely seconding any advice to report to dept of labor (state and fed) and consult an employment attorney. If the OP is in California I know a good one and could send Alison the deets to pass on.

  40. OhNoYouDidn't*

    OMG. Please public name this company. They should face public wrath for their horrible treatment of their employees.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Someone upthread said this office is full of bees, and those are *definitely* bees with teeth.

  41. Not Your Average Jo(lene)*

    I bet there are some people on your state’s labor board that would really like to know this!

  42. Anya the Demon*

    Wow. They are a truly horrible company! I am so happy for you that got out of there. You handled it so well!

  43. Cookie Monster*

    Glassdoor. ASAP.

    You’ve already burned the bridge (through no fault of your own, you did everything right). Please help others stay away from this awful place.

  44. Bryce*

    Googling it RPass looks like a business password manager. Key features mentioned were password sharing within groups and automatic revocation of passwords after removing someone from the group. It is clearly meant for sharing business passwords to people supposed to have access.

    Personal passwords should not be getting anywhere NEAR that app! Depending how it’s set up (something I wasn’t able to find info on) personal COMPUTERS might not be supposed to get anywhere near that app.

  45. Scott D*

    You may not realize it now, but you are LUCKY to be out of a company like that. I’ve worked in places like that before and QUICKLY found the door. I’m now at a company that is EXTREMELY helpful to us during the pandemic. They let us, for example, split our shift if we have kids so we can work from 7-11, parent from 11-4 and work from 4-8. As a bonus, we don’t have to install any type of “tracking” software because the only form is tracking is that the work is either done or it isn’t, and if it it isn’t then we have to explain why.

  46. Lizy*

    I call election fraud by Allison because she didn’t post this update before the voting on worst boss of the year. I 100% would have voted for this one if I had this info… sheesh.

  47. Nanani*

    This probably goes without saying but please please please change ALL your passwords on everything. It sounds like OP didn’t actually install the tracker on their computer, but there was suspicious software on their phone and they did have a work device infected with the spyware.
    Change -all- the passwords and use strong ones via a password manager.

    It’s only a matter of time before the data is sold or a malicious person at that company decides to buy shit on your amazon account or steal your streaming subscription by changing the info on it.

  48. SomehowIManage*

    I know it’s not in AAM’s practice, but I think it’s time to name and shame these companies! I don’t want to do business with companies that behave this way.

  49. Jean*

    Holy toxic cesspool, Batman! I know we’re supposed to keep it anon on here, but this company is a prime candidate for naming and shaming. I’d be running my mouth to the media if I were you OP. Everyone needs to know about this company so they can avoid it like the plague that it is. Glad you’re out of there!

  50. Essess*

    I don’t see anything in the update about speaking to an employment lawyer to determine the legality of mandating tracking software on personal equipment and being fired for not allowing the company to surveil you on your private use of the computer. I really hope you do follow up to see if you have any claim against them.

  51. Lies, damn lies and...*

    Nominee for worst boss ever or just worse boss ever. What a terrible company. I hope OP found something new and great.

  52. GreenDoor*

    In the age where identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes – worldwide – they want you to install an app that would store passwords….on the same device that they also want to be able to monitor your every move? Hell to the NO! I hope you find another job with rational employers soon!

  53. Laura H.*

    That place is full of bees, hornets, scorpions,!and venomous spiders.

    You’re furloughed- if that means you need to quit, I’d do it. Yesterday.

  54. Lucien Nova*

    May I please have a crowbar to pry my jaw off the floor?

    Holy Hanukkah balls, OP. I’m glad you’re out of that toxic hole.

  55. EUCyber*

    As a member of the cyber security community, frankly I honestly can’t believe what I’ve read!

    If this company was operating within the bounds of the EU (So GDPR jurisdiction), this would not only be illegal but it would probably land the CEO and board of directors/senior management in jail, open them up to personal accountability via civil suits and render them what is usually termed as ‘unsuitable’ for company ownership or inclusion on a board of directors for probably the rest of their lives.

    Company information should never touch a personal device in an ideal world, and personal data of an employee bar what is absolutely needed for employment purposes (like name, NI/SSN number, address and so on) should ever be anywhere near company equipment or knowledge.

    Get thee to a lawyer OP, fast as possible. If nothing else they have probably contravened laws regarding data protection/security (even the US has some lol). If they serve government contracts they have almost certainly violated the terms of that contract by allowing personal devices with no established corporate controls like AW/Malware protection or Data Loss Protection. Finally by collecting all the data that would be available on a personal device, should any employee ever suffer fraud or identity theft, the company could find themselves on the hook for it if they can’t prove they are not responsible for that information being out in the wild.

    Someone further up suggested speaking to the other country this company operates in, please look into this countries data protection laws and regulations and consider this very seriously, the EU GDPR applies if you have any dealing with an EU citizen anywhere in the world for example. Like wise you’ll find places like Singapore, Indonesia, Tiawan, South Korea and Japan all have some quite hard hitting laws depending on the kind of data getting shared and the level of consent (informed) that is given. It worth mentioning that in most places consent gethered by coercion/force is not considered legal (and consent or lose your job is coercion).

  56. JM60*

    I find it ironic that your former manager wanted you to grovel for your job shortly before she voluntarily left.

  57. Good Vibes Steve*

    What a dumpster fire of a company. I’d be tempted to pretend I don’t have a personal laptop and see what they make of that. Plenty of people rely on just a phone or a tablet for their personal needs, companies shouldn’t be able to just assume they can use their employees’ equipment.

Comments are closed.