we went to the home of an employee who didn’t show up for work — and it went badly

A reader writes:

Years ago, my husband owned a small computer business with a few employees. I occasionally helped him with it. One of the employees was an insulin-dependent middle-aged woman who lived alone. She had always been very reliable until one morning when she didn’t show up for work and didn’t answer her phone. Husband and I drove to her nearby home, saw that her car was in the parking lot, and became afraid for her. Husband began banging on the door and calling her over and over. We could hear the phone ringing inside the small co-op town house. There was no response.

We called the police for a wellness check. Police came, got the co-op manager, got some kind of animal control to deal with her large, friendly dog, and eventually went into the house. We were frustrated by how long the whole thing took as we were imagining her in a diabetic coma. Hubby had continued knocking and ringing her phone the whole time.

The officer came back out almost immediately, and gave us a very tight lipped assurance that the woman was okay. The excited co-op manager came out and told us that she was in bed with a man.

Later we realized that after my husband left the office and before he started banging on her door, she had called one of our numbers and left a message that she wasn’t coming in.

The next day, the employee came in, furious. She was fired several months later for continued unreliable behavior that seemed to be related to the new boyfriend. Recently, I’ve been enjoying your column, but getting a little worried as I read about horrible employers who invade their employees’ privacy, sometimes even going to their homes. At the time I felt both foolish and aggrieved over the whole incident; now I’m wondering what we should have done differently other than the obvious — check messages. The employee certainly thought we were outrageous. Can you render a verdict?

It’s easy to say that you overreacted in hindsight, when we know the employee was fine. It might feel different if she had turned out not to be okay.

That said … yeah, I think you overreacted! Most obviously, when someone isn’t where you expect them to be at the time you expect them to be there, the first thing you should do is check your messages. Which you now know.

Even aside from that, though, I think going to her home yourselves was too much. When you’re at the point of wanting to do that, it’s better to call the person’s emergency contact (which hopefully you have on file) or, if you’re seriously worried, call for a wellness check. There are almost no cases where you should find yourself banging on an employee’s door or calling over and over.

That said, it’s also true that calling the police for a wellness check can introduce risk of its own in some situations, particularly if the person has mental illness, isn’t white, or otherwise is in a group that historically hasn’t been treated well by police. So you need to factor that in too — and that admittedly complicates it.

I think the main thing in this situation was that you and your husband acted too frantically. Someone wasn’t at work on time, and instead of stopping to think about options (check messages, call emergency contacts, wait and see if you heard from her later that day, etc.) you just went straight to her house and then freaked out when she didn’t answer. It was … a lot! If you’d slowed down a bit, you might have come up with the other options. (I also wouldn’t be surprised if you were increasing each other’s panic in a way that wouldn’t have happened if there were just one of you.)

But again, if the employee had turned out to need help, this would all look very different.

I can’t blame her for being furious though! Imagine taking the day off for a sex romp, calling in so your employer didn’t expect you at work, and then having your boss and his wife show up at your house, bang on your door, blow up your phone, and eventually have the police and your apartment manager break into your home, where they find you mid-coitus. It’s not surprising that she was outraged. (But oh lord, if I were her I’d enjoy doing dramatic retellings of that story for years. It didn’t happen to me and I still probably will.)

{ 602 comments… read them below }

  1. Lost, in disrepair*

    I just keep wondering how this woman didn’t answer the phone or door once she was being called repeatedly?

      1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        I wouldn’t get out of bed to answer a knock I wasn’t expecting, even if there was no one else there. Especially in a townhouse/apartment situation where it’s probably just a delivery for the wrong address.

        1. Space Cadet*

          but the knocking over and over again? I’d at least check to make sure someone wasn’t trying to break in.

          1. The Starsong Princess*

            Yeah, I’m not big on answering the door but I’d at least peek out the window if someone kept banging. It did happen a few years ago – next door was on fire and we needed to evacuate.

            Also, I think Alison was a little tough on this LW. This woman, who had known medical conditions, was already late several hours before they went over. She just as easily could have been on the floor in a diabetic coma.Yes, she left a message but that wasn’t at the beginning of the day, but that it was after they had called and left to check on her.

            As well, I’m surprised she didn’t get fired on the spot. Not showing up for work with no notice is grounds especially if she lied in her phone message about taking a sick day.

            1. wuh*

              Where does it say the employee was several hours late before the employers left to go to her co-op…?

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

                I don’t think it was explicitly stated, but I inferred that they waited an hour perhaps, and knowing that she was in a risk category (diabetes, alone at home etc) and was known to be reliable before that (e.g. if she’d called out sick/on leave before, it was at sort of 9.10 if their start time was 9.00 type of thing) — & probably in the heat of the moment thought it better to go over there rather than wait (and given some of the other stories posted here and elsewhere in which people died from complications of diabetes due to lack of timely response, maybe it’s the right thing to do?! not to mention how long police might take to show up for a ‘wellness’ check, or how that might shake out..).

            2. Lyra Silvertongue*

              I would hate to think that my employer knowing about my medical conditions would give them carte blanche to turn up at my house and start hammering at the door.

            3. Shirley*

              I had a co-worker who roomed with another young woman, Peggy, whom she had worked with at a previous job. Peggy was a somewhat brittle diabetic who had already experienced a number of complications and my co-worker and the other roomie made sure that Peggy was up in the morning. On this day, both coworker and other roomie called downstairs to the basement bedroom and gotten the typical grumpy response. About an hour after she got to work, my co-worker got a call from her former and Peggy’s current boss that Peggy had not shown up and was not answering the phone. My co- worker called the police, told them what was going on, and asked for a wellness check. She told them to break down the door if necessary (they did) and then rushed home. The police found Peggy in a diabetic coma . It is probable that she would have died had she not been found. The roomies’ morning routine changed so that they did not leave until Peggy was up and functioning.

              1. Lyra Silvertongue*

                Really though, this is quite different from the LW’s situation for a few reasons: this person already had experienced complications, lived with her co-worker, had some sort of prior check-in agreement in place because of aforementioned complications, and was contacted with concern by Peggy’s boss. The LW does not have that kind of relationship with her employee and does not appear to know much about her medical situation other than she is insulin dependent.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  I don’t think it’s so very different. In both cases the person doing the calling was concerned the not-shown-up employee may have been in a diabetic coma. The main difference is instead of the concerned boss calling the roommates, who then called for the wellness check, it was the boss who did because she knew the person lived alone. The going in person and banging was excessive. As was not checking messages in between the frantic calling. But the reason for alarm in both cases was “what if she’s dying in there”, and that worry wasn’t without fact-based reason.

            4. C*

              When I lived alone I absolutely thought about scenarios like this, and I didn’t have a chronic condition – just worried about falling in the shower or something. I definitely put my hope on the fact that work would know it was weird that I didn’t show up and didn’t call. I wouldn’t have expected my boss to turn up, but I had co-workers I was friendly with who knew where I lived. I do agree with Alison, though, that as the boss the best course of action is to reach out to the emergency contact. I almost had my husband do that recently when his report who lives alone didn’t log in (everyone working remote). They were hours late at that point and not answering their phone, but they did call in just before he was going to ask HR what to do – apparently they had just massively overslept!

            1. Perstompa*

              But if it were a fire, wouldn’t the person at the door be shouting “Fire! Fire! Evacuate now!”

              If I were a woman living alone and someone came banging on my door like that, not only would I not answer the door. But I would also not even poke my face out of the window to see who it is. Then whoever is banging would know you were home. If they don’t get an answer, they may leave by themselves or realize their mistake.

              There are lots of valid reasons to bang on a stranger’s door…but there are also lots of valid reasons why you should not open the door to an aggressive knocker who is not indicating some other time-sensitive emergency.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            Yeah there’s no way I’d ignore someone banging on the door or calling repeatedly, as it’s quite possible the building is on fire or there’s some other emergency. The only reason I can think of for the woman not answering is she just didn’t hear it because she was quite busy.

            1. it's-a-me*

              I can’t help but think of that video where the guy ran to his neighbors and began banging on their door – he couldn’t cry out because he was in the process of choking to death. Fortunately they looked out, saw him, and were able to rush out and do the heimlich on him.

          3. The Rules are Made Up*

            Yeahhh If I’m not expecting anyone I won’t answer the door if someone knocks once. But if someone keeps knocking and clearly has no intention of stopping until they get someone, I answer. Usually its a new neighbor asking if the car blocking their driveway is mine or reminding me to move my car because of street cleaning so I won’t get a ticket (which I appreciate!). I can’t imagine ignoring repeated knocks AND phone calls.

        2. Allonge*

          Ok, but for knocking that goes on for what sounds like a least half an hour? Knocking that says ‘police’? At some point this will get annoying enough that the sexytimes become awkward, no?

          1. Esmeralda*

            If it’s police, they will announce themselves (in my experience — I’m a middle class white woman, so) or come in.

            Someone bashing on the door over and over and over? No way am I answering that — clearly someone I do NOT want to encounter. BTDT

            1. It is a big deal.*

              In that situation, I would probably go to the door and yell through it. While it could go bad either way, I think I’d rather let them know someone is home and aware of their presence then think they have free reign to break into an empty home.

              1. Gymmie*

                Actually, I would feel really scared and pretend no one was home. This has happened to me before (we used to live on a corner in a slightly sketchy place) and I would just hope they would go away. I didn’t want them to know I was home.

            2. MusicWithRocksIn*

              I remember once in collage someone banged on my door for a half hour solid. I was trying to sleep and didn’t want to get up, plus I was female and alone and answering felt like a very bad idea, but eventually my anger overrode caution and I couldn’t take it anymore. Turns out it was some day drunk idiot trying to bring birthday cupcakes to a friend and had the wrong building. Using the power of righteous anger alone I yelled at him for waking me up and demanded (and received) a cupcake for my troubles. But I am aware that answering the door alone to a bunch of angry knocking men could have gone badly for me.

              1. Quill*

                I lived in an all girl’s dorm and the highlight of my terrible rush week above a sorority experience was opening my door in time to see a girl skateboarding down the hall hitting each door with a hockey stick.

                Another girl marched out of her door while I was standing there wondering if I was awake, beaned the skateboarder in the head with an (empty) pizza box, and promptly slammed the door again.

                I have never been able to confirm that another soul saw this, since I never saw the skateboarder again and I was a little afraid of pizza girl.

            3. Jonquil S*

              If someone was repeatedly banging on my door, due to my own history, I would worry it might be an aggressive ex. I definitely wouldn’t answer.

              Although, I live in an apartment, and I *would* call the apartment manager to see if they could get the person to leave, or if it was, like, a somewhat aggressive maintenance-repair person and I just didn’t get the memo.

              That said, I have also benefitted from a welfare check, albeit from my church rather than the police; I had an embarrassing accident where I fell in the shower and became concussed / delirious. I was unemployed at the time, so there’s no workplace that would have known what had happened, but a woman who had been mentoring me realized I wasn’t answering my phone. Fortunately, I had given her a spare key to my apartment earlier.

              It’s hard when someone doesn’t have a community, family, or a close friend group that will notice if there’s some urgent situation. In some cities, there are non-profit organizations or religious groups that do welfare checks even for non-members, in situations where you don’t want to risk potentially violent intervention.

              But not every city has those, or it’s not obvious how to contact them. In those situations, a police-based wellness check may be the best option when there are no ideal choices.

            4. yala*

              In my experience with the police randomly showing up at my apartment at 11pm at night…they mostly just hammered on the door very loudly over and over again. They only identified themselves as cops when I got to the door and asked who it was. I was friggen terrified. (And then they were suspicious that I was terrified.)

            5. Hadrosaur*

              IME the police (in the UK at least) do bash on the door repeatedly, without announcing they are police until you’ve opened the door.

          2. JMR*

            YES, that’s what struck me! No matter how into the sexytimes I am, I can’t imagine zoning out to the point that I could ignore the frantic shouting of the husband, wife, apartment manager, and police officer. I think I’d be terrified and call the police myself. Or I’d go to the door (without opening it) and try figure out what the hell was going on. Either way, I can’t imagine just tuning it out and continuing on with the sexytimes. Kudos to both of them on their focus, I guess?

            1. Joan Rivers*

              LW doesn’t say whether she called in “sick” or just taking a day off. And of course didn’t check messages, the FIRST thing a pro would do.

              If she called in sick it would be silly to ignore her boss at the door.

              Being upstairs w/music on can easily explain not hearing knocking. Or a phone in one’s purse downstairs.

              1. Joan Rivers*

                Music on
                Door closed to upstairs BR
                Phone downstairs in purse
                Knocking at first floor not that easy to hear

        3. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I knocked on a bunch of people’s doors to tell them about a fire and to evacuate the building. The fire department came fast, so no big deal in the end. But…..

          You do you though.

      2. KHB*

        Depending on what kind of neighborhood she lives in, the instinctive reaction to someone banging on the door repeatedly might be to be very quiet and pretend not to be home.

        1. Weekend Please*

          Yep. I had an obnoxious neighbor that would persistently knock on the door because he was bored. We got used to ignoring the door unless we were expecting someone.

          1. Ariadne Oliver*

            My colleague, let’s call him Joe, was found dead in his apartment after no one from my work bothered to check on him for several weeks. Joe had initially called in sick but his supervisor, instead of checking on him after not hearing from Joe just kept assuming that he was still sick and not only didn’t tell anyone that he hadn’t heard from him for several weeks but made it appear that he had actually heard from him when asked. I knew that Joe lived alone and was a loner to boot. I kept mentioning it to my supervisor that it seemed strange that Joe was still out and finally my supervisor, who was not Joe’s supervisor, sent another colleague of mine to check on Joe. By coincidence one of the neighbors had also become concerned and called the police for a wellness check and they found Joe dead in his apartment. It was terrible and I could never forgive Joe’s supervisor for being so uncaring and for misleading us to think that he had been in contact with Joe when he hadn’t. So bottom line is, especially when you know people live alone, better safe than sorry. I lived for almost a year in a remote location due to work and if something had happened to me the only thing that could have saved me is someone from work checking on me in a reasonable amount of time.

            1. Artemesia*

              The only time we encountered this situation was an employee who didn’t come in and didn’t answer and whose wife was out of town. We knew he had a medical condition. Two of the staff went to his apartment and found him dead. Glad he wasn’t left for days.

              My BIL a college professor was found the same way when he didn’t show up to meet with a student who reported she couldn’t contact him and colleagues went to his apartment where he was found dead.

              Not checking messages was a fail here. But knowing someone is diabetic and reliable and then doesn’t show up, merits a wellness check. She should have responded — or at least put her pants on when police were knocking. This is a situation where timely check could have saved her life if she were in a diabetic coma but still alive.

              1. LavaLamp*

                I had an ex boyfriend who had lost one of his previous girlfriends to diabetic shock. He and the police ended up finding her after a couple days (they had been broken up for quite awhile, but with the diabetes he still checked in on her).

              2. PeanutButter*

                Yep. Should have checked messages and called an emergency contact first, but in a previous life I was the one dispatched by the city to do welfare checks and I found enough bodies and people in acute distress in need of help (in addition to folks in flagrante delicto ha ha) that I don’t think LW acted too unreasonably.

            2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              I too had a friend pass because of his diabetes and was only discovered days later by a welfare check. Something that to this day still haunts a lot of his friends. I live by myself and work form home. If I didn’t call in or log in my boss would be the first to suspect something was wrong. Also having work at various retail jobs before and also daycare, I can’t imagine many jobs were if you call in the morning of and they found out later it was for a sex romp you wouldn’t be immediately canned. Most of those jobs you have to be nearly dead to not work your shift the day of. My current job has lots of PTO and unless truly sick or some kind of an emergency I still can’t imagine calling in the day of.

              1. iliketoknit*

                I think this varies a lot by industry. In my office calling out on the day of is completely fine, because our work is largely autonomous and you take time off based on what’s going on in your own schedule. If someone asks people to cover something last minute so often that it gets in the way of others doing their own work, that would be one thing. But otherwise deciding to take a day off the morning of that day is fine, because me doing so doesn’t affect anyone else’s schedule.

                Also… the reason I take a day off is no one’s business. My boss doesn’t get to decide whether my reasons for taking a day off are good enough. So whether it’s for a “sex romp” or because I just want to enjoy the nice weather that day shouldn’t make the tiniest bit of difference as to whether I got canned for calling out the day of.

                (I get that there are a lot of jobs where not being there last minute does affect others, but it’s not at all clear from this letter that this job is one of those.)

            3. ConWonTon*

              My husband and another co-worker found their third coworker in a diabetic coma after being out sick for a few days and not showing up to his scheduled shift on day four. He lost a foot as a result of it, but if they hadn’t “overreacted” he could’ve lost a lot more.

          1. Jennifer*

            You would call the police on someone that may have been trying to warn you about a fire or some other emergency situation, potentially putting them in danger? Wow. Knocking on someone’s door loudly is not a crime.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              No, but there’s a large population of the US who has reasonable right to be alarmed by frantic knocking on doors. Even though I’m not in that population, if I was disoriented from sexytimes and startled by frantic knocking and yelling at my door that I didn’t expect (where the word FIRE FIRE FIRE isn’t being repeated) I sure as hell would be calling the police.

              1. Mimi Me*

                I lived in a building where I had to call the police on my neighbor. She was high on something and was banging on the doors of every apartment, begging to be let in due to “the lizard invasion”. I was home alone with my kids. With no way out of my apartment. You bet your sweet bippy I called the police. She banged for 15 minutes straight! My kids were terrified. To this day, if someone aggressively bangs on our front door my now teenaged kids get jumpy and insist that either I or my husband answer the door. Someone repeatedly and insistently knocking on your door has the potential to be scary no matter who or where you are. I think the employee had every right to be upset in this case.

                1. Mimi Me*

                  Oh…and I only know she was high on something because it made the police blotter section of the local newspaper about a week later.

                2. Lizzo*

                  Sorry that you had to deal with that!

                  Within the context of the letter here, it should be pointed out that you *did* respond to the banging on the door, and your response was to call the police.

                  In the case of the employee, if she didn’t want to answer the door because she was scared, unclothed, etc., she could have picked up her phone, at which point she might have noticed the multitude of missed calls from her boss…

              2. Jennifer*

                I’m reminded of a news story where a young boy knocked on someone’s door because he had the wrong house and the homeowner called the police. Could have ended in tragedy over a simple mistake. This kind of hypervigilant attitude gets people killed. Not saying to open the door to strangers, and I understand that people have stalkers, just asking people to open their minds to the fact that the majority of people on the planet are just trying to get through life the best they can, just like you are.

                1. JB*

                  I think the issue there is not ‘nervous homeowner calls the police’ but rather ‘calling the police can sometimes end in unnecessary tragedy’. The police are not some uncontrollable force of nature, they’re people who need to be retrained so there’s no risk of them shooting kids.

                2. Jennifer*

                  @JB Both are the issue. People need to understand what an actual emergency is AND the police need to be re-trained. Even if the police respond to the call peacefully it’s still a waste of resources and very traumatic for the kid.

                3. The Rules are Made Up*

                  Yeah and I’m reminded of a few stories where it DID end in tragedy. Like the young man whose car broke down and was looking for help and knocked on someones door, who called the police, who killed him. Like you said I understand people who have histories with abusive people and stalkers but other than that…the quick jump from 0 to police every time someone knocks a few times makes me uncomfortable.

                  Will add that I do think a good bit of this problem has to do with what we think the police are for, an over-reliance on police/ the lack of other resources that aren’t the police that people can call.

            2. iliketoknit*

              Yeah, I have to agree with the comments above. I don’t know why that person is banging on my door and it might not be with good intentions. This is very very location specific.

            3. Nicole76*

              No, knocking on a door isn’t a crime, but how would you know someone’s true intention for knocking if you didn’t recognize them?

              I was home alone one morning around 6 am when someone started loudly and repeatedly banging on the door. I peeked out the window and it was an extremely large man in nondescript clothing. He wasn’t saying anything. It freaked me out and I called 911. Turns out it was a fireman checking on the rest of the building (I’m in a townhome) because there was a suspected carbon monoxide leak. He was the chief, wasn’t in uniform, and the fire truck was around the corner out of sight (I had looked outside from a different window when the banging began). The other uniformed firefighters were in other units at the time.

              I felt really silly after everything was sorted out but the 911 operator and firefighters assured me I did the right thing. So there’s that. Perhaps I watch too many true crime shows, but I’m not answering my door, or even letting someone know I’m home, until I know for sure who it is.

              1. Jennifer*

                You say “who is it?” and don’t open the door. That’s common sense.

                I have a story too. My husband was illegally detained when he worked for the gas company, simply for knocking on someone’s door. All the woman who called the police had to do was ask, “Who is it?” She could have called the gas company if she didn’t believe him. But no, she called the police and he was detained on the side of the road for an hour begging the police to just call his boss, which they finally did. I guess we got off lucky. He could have been killed. If this guy was peeking in your windows or trying to get in your house somehow, of course call the police. Simply knocking on the door is not a crime and attitudes like this get innocent people killed. Stop calling the police for nothing.

                1. Anonapots*

                  Seriously. I’m really unsure of all this “WHO KNOCKS ON DOORS” fear. Uh, take a peek out your window, ask who it is, do whatever you need to do. I live in a neighborhood where there are shootings and I don’t freak out about someone knocking on my door. I’m more worried about my car window getting smashed out in front of my house (has happened) than someone trying to bust in after claiming to be a vacuum cleaner salesman.

                  Also, I can 100% believe most of the “call the cops” brigade would do this if the person knocking was a POC than if they were white.

                2. Maeve*

                  If someone randomly knocks on my door (it’s happened a few times recently) I absolutely will not do anything to give any kind of indication that I’m home, including asking “who is it?” but I would also never call the police on them…it would take a whole lot for me to get the police involved in anything at all.

                3. The Rules are Made Up*

                  Omg a mutual friend of my boyfriend called us in a panic once because someone was outside of her door knocking and speaking spanish. She claimed he was yelling and was terrified. We went over there and it was just a Mexican couple who had lived there previously who explained to us (in English) that they were checking to see if any mail was sent there with their names on it because they were waiting on important ID documents. I’m glad she called us and not the police because they would have been deported. They seemed worried but definitely weren’t angry or yelling. The friend felt silly after but this is why “Who is it?” is quite the useful phrase.

          2. Criminologist*

            I hope you rethink this. This isn’t a police matter.

            Anyway, many apartment doors have a peephole, so she probably could have at least seen that it was her boss and told him she was fine but taking a sick day, and he would have left.

            1. Self Employed*

              I am extremely surprised if anyone doesn’t have a peephole in the door. I’m assuming that the employee doesn’t have faceblindness and can recognize the boss’s voice, of course.

              I live in a building with dangerous people in a dangerous neighborhood, and the Neighborhood Watch said the worst thing to do when someone knocks on your door is to pretend not to be home. That’s when they think it’s safe to break in. If you don’t sound large and threatening (or have a dog to bark at them, or a recording of a dog cued up), you can always just pound back on the door really hard.

        2. Red 5*

          At a previous place that I lived, about a year before I moved in they’d had a home invasion robbery where a woman had answered the door later in the day (I believe it was dark but not like the middle of the night, but I can’t recall the specifics) and two people outside asked to use her phone because their car had broken down. She opened the storm door to hand them a cordless phone and they pushed their way in. After that the details I have are really sketchy because nobody liked to talk about it too much. But one of my neighbors would remind me repeatedly not to just open the door to random people knocking whenever he came by because of what had happened.

          I generally don’t answer the door anyway, but after hearing about that I really never do. I almost never want to talk to the person anyway.

          That said, the second or third time they knocked I would have definitely checked the peephole and seen it was my boss and done something. The place I moved to last year didn’t have a peephole so one of the first things I did was get a security camera pointed at the door because I don’t answer if I don’t know who is on the other side. But I have to have a way to know who is there to do that.

          1. Criminologist*

            Sure, you can be cautious. But this sort of crime is extremely rare.

            If someone is knocking over and over, it’s probably someone you know, or it’s someone who’s trying to visit someone they know but they made a mistake.

            1. Red 5*

              I mean, I’m just on the edge of being a millennial so it’s probably not somebody I know because we all just text each other from the parking lot as we’re walking up instead ; ) Or we did in the beforetimes.

              But you’re right, generally, it’s not going to be somebody trying to rob you. I just think of it about the same as I do my seatbelt. Sure, I’m probably not going to get into a bad accident while I’m out and it won’t matter that much but it’s easy enough to be careful and doesn’t cost me anything so why not? If somebody knocks, I check to see if I recognize them and if I don’t, I don’t answer the door. If they knock repeatedly, then I’d reevaluate the situation as it goes.

        3. Gymmie*

          This is what I would do. Even if I get a knock on the door now – if I’m not expecting anyone, I don’t want to answer, and if they kept knocking, I would get scared. I prefer not to talk to random people lol!

      3. Red 5*

        Thinking about it as somebody who basically doesn’t answer their door ever…I generally would check to see who was there (if I could without them seeing I was home because I was probably going to pretend to not be home). Once it was a police officer, so I answered, he did not identify himself as the police but it wasn’t an emergency situation anyway. But I could see through the peephole that he was in uniform so you know, there’s that.

        But if I was say, in the shower or changing clothes or something? I’ve definitely just stayed in the bedroom and hoped they’d go away. But I’ve also never had somebody knock again after the first time, I think a second time would just prompt me to check the peephole and at that point when you recognize your boss, you mess up your hair, act like you’ve been asleep, and explain you’ve called out sick. It’s weird to ignore it for that long, but sounds like it became a weird situation all around.

      4. Weezie*

        One of our co-workers didn’t show up to work on time [she was always early & lived alone] & didnt answer her phone. After an hour, sherriff’s office was called for wellness check. Found her on the floor…died of a stroke. As a result our office has an abundance of caution & always check on one another if they haven’t called in one hour prior to their work shift [as mandated by HR].

      5. Deborah*

        I used to live in this duplex where my landlord made me and my duplex mate responsible for taking care of the yard. I’m not physically able to do that myself and it was such a pain trying to find a decent and affordable service for it! One summer I had met someone who was waking through the neighborhood with a lawn mower and asking about mowing lawns cut it. It was an older guy and I thought maybe he would be reasonable and dependable where some of the others had been weird and flaky. He was actually scary! I was sick one day, and he showed up and banged on my door for an hour! He wanted to cut my lawn when it didn’t need cut because he needed the money, I guess. I didn’t want to get out of bed at first, and when he kept doing it, I did finally get up and peek to see who it was, but I didn’t want to own the door at that point because I was scared! And there was another time when I was actually with my boyfriend at the time when the dude came around – and now I could tell because he would yell too. I didn’t answer that time either. So…there can be reasons to not answer the door, LOL. I did tell him to stop acting like that, and when that didn’t work, and he woke me up at 6 am one day, I told him off and told him to never come back and that finally worked.

      6. maxwell*

        in my apartment, i can’t hear the door from my bedroom even if the place was in dead silence. i DEFINITELY can’t hear the front door if i have the adjoining door closed. and if my phone is on silent? good luck. if i’ve left a message at work saying that i’m not available, i’m not available.

    1. Points for Anonymity*

      This is what confused me. Surely you’d be able to hear all the pandemonium outside. Just pause your coitus and answer the door?

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah you def gotta pause for a repeated knocking at a door. I mean, maybe I am just a nervous nelly and listen to way too many true crime podcasts but I am not ignoring a knock at the door that isn’t stopping. It could be someone needing help, a fire nearby that you need to evacuate for or something else of the like.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Or an angry person. Or an unhinged person. In other words, not a safe situation.

          Or sometimes, just a person who does not understand social norms.

          Neither situation =I’m stopping in the middle of sex to see if it’s a scary or obnoxious person.

          1. Jennifer*

            Right but wouldn’t you at least peek out the window or peephole to see who it was? That’s really odd to me. People do sometimes knock on your door unannounced for good reason. It could be a neighbor letting you know they found something that belongs to you. Or the property manager. The automatic assumption that it must be an unhinged person is weird to me.

            1. KHB*

              Personally, I’d rather risk seeming rude to a neighbor or property manager (who can always leave me a note or voicemail and I can get back to them later) than open the door for someone who intends to do me harm. Even walking to the peephole to see who it is produces audible footsteps, and clues them in that somebody’s home. And remember, this was in the middle of the day on a workday in the before times, when under most circumstances there *wouldn’t* be anybody home.

              1. Jennifer*

                I’m not saying open the door to a stranger. But the automatic assumption that unannounced visitor = criminal is odd to me. I say that as someone who hasn’t always lived in the greatest neighborhoods too. Unless you live in an absolute war zone, or have an actual stalker, I think the likliehood of that is low.

                1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                  There are people who are low-key reclusive to the point that the only unscheduled visits they would get are either from criminals or salespeople.

                2. KHB*

                  It’s not an automatic assumption – it’s a balance of risks. Even a low likelihood times a potentially catastrophic consequence equals me not answering the door.

                  But maybe it’s not an actual criminal. Maybe it’s just the friendly neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to save my soul. Or my downstairs neighbor complaining that I’m walking on my floor too loudly. Or a political canvasser trying to sway my (unswayable) vote. The truth is, unless I’ve specifically invited somebody over (or called for a repair person, etc.), the chances that a random person at the door is somebody I’m going to want to talk to are very low indeed.

                  I do kind of get the opposing mindset. I grew up in a picket-fence neighborhood where kids went door to door by themselves selling Girl Scout cookies or whatever, and everybody answered their doors and it was totally fine. And yet that one time when I was a teenager home alone and two guys I’d never seen before came knocking at the door, it freaked me right the heck out. (It turned out they were repairmen that my parents had asked to check on something, but they forgot to tell me about it.)

                3. MusicWithRocksIn*

                  In my neighborhood unannounced visitor = trying to sell me religion, so extra incentive to not come to the door. And they will linger for a long time if they suspect you are there. I’ve tried politely telling them no thank you, but no means no means nothing to them, and neither does ‘I’m home sick from work with a 101 degree temperature’ so it’s usually easier to hide and wait them out.

                4. Lizzo*

                  @KBH you reminded me of the time in the late 2000s that a guy showed up at my apartment to install our internet after my husband said that installation wasn’t necessary for the type of internet we’d signed up for, and so I was super suspicious of him (the internet guy, not my husband)…eventually got husband to talk to him over the phone while we were standing outside my building and everything was good, so he came in for the install…but, come to find out that the internet guy had been equally suspicious of me this entire time, because the service order was for our address, but was for Mickey Mouse!

                  Turns out that you had to have a phone number with your internet plan, and you also couldn’t have your phone book listing removed unless you paid for removal, so my husband told them to put “Mickey Mouse” for the phone book listing.

                  Internet guy and I both had a good laugh about that.

                5. Red 5*

                  As I mentioned above, a place I recently lived in actually DID have someone that was assaulted and robbed in her own home because she answered the door to strangers (who then said they needed help as part of the robbery). And it was actually in a really great upper class neighborhood that had statistically really low crime rates, especially compared to a lot of the places I’ve lived.

                  I don’t answer my door 90% of the time because 90% of the time it’s not something I want. My friends and family would NEVER come over unannounced. I almost always know if a delivery that will require a signature is coming, I’ll know that I ordered delivery (in the beforetimes when they didn’t just ring the doorbell and leave it on the porch). So an unannounced visitor is either somebody ignoring the no soliciting signs to try to sell me magazines or some other scam, somebody trying to convert me to a religion, somebody that has the wrong door, or a criminal. I don’t want to talk to any of them, so it kind of doesn’t matter who it is.

                  I think most people in my generation feel the same way, I can’t think of anybody other than my parents who answer the door these days if we don’t already know who is on the other side.

                6. Jennifer*

                  @Red5 – I understand not opening the door to strangers. I don’t get calling the police on someone simply because they knocked on your door. That’s rhymes with Schmaren behavior.

                7. Red 5*

                  Oh yeah, I would only call the police if there was some other thing aside from just knocking. Like persistent knocking for a truly extended period of time (not just two minutes or knocking twice), or loud screaming at the same time. And mostly it would actually be because they might need help, which I’d say when I called (instead of “this crazy person is banging on my door make them stop” more of a “I think somebody might be hurt or need help.”)

                  Before I put up the camera at my current place I answered the door to a guy doing the standard magazine sales thing and he was polite enough and easy enough for me to say no, I would rather have not dealt with it but it was fine. An hour later there was a post on NextDoor where somebody was complaining about “unsavory” characters going door to door and the comments were full of people saying to call the cops. Complete overreaction, just don’t answer the door, they’ll move to the next one. And even if you do answer, sure the solicitation is illegal but it was also less than three minutes of my day and he was perfectly nice. What would the cops accomplish?

                  But somebody yelling and banging on the door for an hour if I didn’t recognize them I might call, not sure. Too many factors to say I wouldn’t ever, but you’re absolutely right that it shouldn’t be a first instinct just because a stranger is on your doorstep.

              2. pleaset cheap rolls*

                Then figure out a way to get a sense of who is outside without opening the door. Really.

                “Even walking to the peephole to see who it is produces audible footsteps, and clues them in that somebody’s home.”

                Is where you live that dangerous that people are smashing down doors/windows for home invasions if they think someone is home? Dang. That’s violent. I’d think the risk of dying in a fire while holed up inside refusing to come to the door is a bigger danger, but I guess I’d be wrong.

                And frankly, I think crooks wanting to steal would be MORE likely to come in if no one is home. But I guess it’s the general violence that motivates them.

                I live in a Harlem BTW – a supposedly very dangerous place.

                1. Jennifer*

                  My neighbor knocked the other day to let me know a package had been delivered. I was thankful because apparently the delivery person didn’t knock.

                2. KHB*

                  “Is where you live that dangerous that people are smashing down doors/windows for home invasions if they think someone is home?”

                  Not in my particular neighborhood. But I’d very much prefer that whoever it is give up and go away sooner rather than later. If it’s someone I know, they have other ways of contacting me (and they know better than to show up at my door unannounced in the first place). If it’s a you-need-to-evacuate-now-because-the-building’s-on-fire emergency, I assume they’d yell that through the door rather than standing there knocking for half an hour.

                3. Anonapots*

                  KHB if they don’t think you’re home, they’re not going to yell. Pretty straight forward.

                4. The Rules are Made Up*

                  THIS. I think true crime is making people reeaalllllyyy overestimate the likelihood and frequency of attacks like this. Outside of the fact that if someone is knocking in order to see if someone is home so they can rob you…… pretending not to be home is probably the worst option? Burglars generally prefer robbing homes that are empty. I get knocks on my door semi-frequently and its almost always legit. Once it was someone unhinged but she wasn’t violent or scary. Just clearly confused and mentally unwell. I didn’t call the cops on her either because I didn’t want her to risk being hurt. My neighbors noticed and asked if I knew her and talked to her to figure out where she came from (meet your neighbors!!! I can’t stress this enough!!!) and she eventually left.

                  Guys, if you have friends in your city. Call THEM. If someone is at your house knocking and planning to do something unsavory they probably won’t do it if they see other people arriving. If your area is that bad, acquaint yourself with at least one neighbor that you can text/call to come over if you’re scared. Not everything is a police matter!!!!!

              3. Dan*


                *one* door knock = cops called is a bit over the top. What you’re missing is that:

                1) Somebody is banging long enough/loud enough to be at a minimum, a nuisance
                2) They’re sticking around long enough for the cops to show up

                Those two things put together = enough indication of *possible* trouble to warrant a phone call to the cops. Just because the cops show up doesn’t mean someone is getting arrested or beaten.

                In my area, it would take *at least* 15 minutes from the first door knock to the cops showing up. (I’m not calling at the first knock…) If someone is banging on my door for that long, that’s beyond “normal” behavior for the typical well intentioned person. TBH, most people would probably give up after a minute or two, and they would *not* be continuously banging on the door either.

              4. Criminologist*

                Would you rather risk dying in a fire? Would you rather risk having the property manager barge in because there’s a leak from your apartment that’s causing damage? Would you rather risk the police breaking in to help you because your coworkers told them you have a serious medical condition? These are all way more likely than someone knocking on the door a lot because they want to hurt whoever’s inside.

                Just check who’s at the door. You often don’t even have to open it to do that.

                1. Red 5*

                  To nonegiven, not necessarily. Near to me there was a case a couple years ago where some teenagers were loitering and being teenagers late at night and saw a fire in a townhouse. One called 911 and the rest started banging on doors to wake the neighborhood so that most people in adjoining buildings and the family asleep inside had evacuated before the fire trucks arrived. I live near a firehouse but they’d still take ten minutes to get here probably. If I saw a fire I wouldn’t wait that long to start waking up neighbors.

                2. Self Employed*

                  Once the maintenance guy knocked once and then unlocked the door–his work order had the wrong apartment number. And it was for an urgent repair (the other tenant’s fridge door fell off the hinges somehow) for a tenant who had given permission to enter while she was at work.

            2. GS*

              If she looked out the peephole and saw her bosses, after she had already left a message for them, I could imagine not opening the door.

            3. Paperdill*

              Yeah, I don’t know if this is a cultural thing (I’m from an different country to many of the commentariat) – but this is very odd to me that people are so anti-opening the door, especially if it were someone sounding urgent and calling my name.
              Growing up, we kinda had an open door situation and I actually remember, numerous times, new neighbours coming over to say hello and that they became long term friends, others coming to borrow sugar, let us know our cat was stuck in a tree, sell us fundraising chocolates, come for a cuppa or exchange food scraps as compost – god, that was a wonderful childhood!
              I’m a stay at home mum, now, and living in a new neighbourhood and I am SO excited when the doorbell rings unexpectedly! Sadly, the only time it has was when our new neighbour came by, not to say hi, but to complain about our fence.

            1. Uncle Waldo*

              Maybe. It’s also possible she didn’t want to answer her boss.

              People don’t necessarily behave rationally, especially in stressful situations. This couple thought their actions were the right call at the time. This woman clearly also made some mistakes along the way.

          2. JMR*

            If you thought the situation was unsafe, isn’t that all the more reason to figure out what’s going on? I think if someone was banging on my door for that long, I’d call the police myself. I don’t think I would just ignore a potentially crazy and/or dangerous person outside my doorstep and carry on with my business (so to speak). If nothing else, it would ruin the mood!

            1. Uncle Waldo*

              Nope, not for everyone. If I had been in the same situation, I would have been so embarrassed I would have probably ducked under the covers and wished for it to desperately be over. After the fact, I could have seen where I went wrong, but in the moment? Probably not.

          3. pleaset cheap rolls*

            You really should figure out some system to find out who is outside, even without opening. Sure, it might not be safe to open the door. But what will you do if there is, say, a fire? Or more generously, someone who needs help.

            I knocked on a bunch of people’s doors to tell them about a fire and to evacuate the building. The fire department came fast, so no big deal in the end. But…..

            And in college there was a big fire in my dorm. People know I was not home at the time, but if I was and didn’t answer I would have either died OR the fire department would have smashed down the door to take me out.

        2. GothicBee*

          If the bedroom was far enough away from the door and the bedroom door is closed, I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t hear it. Or it could be that the sound was far enough away that it seemed like it could have reasonably been coming from something else. Granted, I’m hard of hearing in one ear, so my ability to hear the door when I’m at the back of my small house is basically nil, but having multiple doors between them and being in the middle of things would definitely make it much harder to hear any knocking.

          1. Alison*

            Yeah this was my assumption too. They just said they went to her home, with no description of what the home is like. If it was a big house, or a town house or condo with multiple floors, and you close the bed room door and maybe have some music playing…. I don’t think I would hear it, especially if I was otherwise engaged. I wonder if her dog was barking too. And if that dog is normally a barker at random things like a car driving by that could have been totally normal noise that would add to the cacophony.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Or if she has neighbors that bang on walls/floors/etc. to complain about noise, she could assume that a neighbor was wall-banging to complain about the sex noises rather than someone knocking at her door.

              I don’t know that there really is a good answer here – I do think calling the emergency contact would have been far better than going there in person, but someone with a known medical condition that can cause comas suddenly breaking their pattern and no-showing is the kind of thing that I can see why people overreacted.

      2. Barbara Eyiuche*

        They must not have heard the knocking or the phone, because apparently the police found them in bed together. That implies to me that they also didn’t hear the police and property manager enter the home, walk through it, and come up to the bedroom door. They were surprised in bed by the entry of the police into the room. Actually, it’s terrifying – I would hope that if someone broke into my home, I would at least hear them before they got to my bedroom.

        1. Observer*

          I realized that after I posted. But it was apparently in another room. And plenty of people ignore the phone.

    2. Happy*

      I wouldn’t answer, either. I’m not going to answer my door or phone just because someone else feels entitled to harass me by not taking “I’m either not here or I’m ignoring you” for an answer.

      Going to the house was a big overstep.

    3. Esmeralda*

      She was busy. I ignore the door and phone regularly, even when I’m not in media res. When I AM gettin busy, I sure don’t interrupt things.

    4. kittymommy*

      I mean I generally don’t get up and open the door at knocks unless it’s expected but persistent knocking? I’d at least check the peephole. At that point I’d be worried about some sort of emergency (and I say this as someone who NEVER gets visitors as I live on 5 acres in the country). We had a tornado on our road and no one knocked on my door.

    5. BRR*

      There are a lot of it depends (how loud the police/co-op manager were, did the police announce they were police or did they just knock, how far the bedroom is away from the door, etc) but when I lived in an apt complex, by far the most common door knocks were package deliveries or sales people. In 7 years, I would say less than 5 times was it a neighbor or the complex management. All that to say it would certainly be possible that it wasn’t clear who was at the door and if I didn’t hear “it’s the police” I probably wouldn’t have stopped either.

      1. Onyx*

        I have had the experience of police pounding on my apartment door when I was in my bedroom (short version: phone glitch resulted in a 911 hang-up call seeming to come from my phone). I was just listening to music with headphones (not specifically noise-canceling or anything, just fairly nice over-ear headphones). I eventually noticed *something* that made me take the headphones off and realize that I was hearing a scary level of hammering on the front door, but it was surprisingly easy to miss considering how hard the officer was trying to get my attention. And it’s not like the apartment was huge, either.

    6. BigGlasses*

      A lot of people replying to this seem to be assuming that she didn’t answer because she didn’t know/didn’t check who was knocking. I don’t know if that’s warranted. Personally, if I’d called out of work and my boss showed up at my house, I probably wouldn’t want to answer the door! At first, I would assume that he would go away if he thought I wasn’t there. And the more agitated/angrier/frantic he seemed/became, the less I would probably want to answer the door!

      1. Joan Rivers*

        If she called in “sick” you’d think she’d answer the door in her robe looking groggy.

        1. iliketoknit*

          But the letter just says she called to say she wasn’t coming in, not necessarily that she was calling in sick.

      2. Allonge*

        This makes a lot more sense to me than assuming that a person persistently knocking on my door is a criminal / unhinged.

    7. RagingADHD*

      You can always turn your phone off.

      Depending on the layout of the townhouse, you might not hear knocking if there were music or a fan on, or other noise.

      My house isn’t large, but I can’t hear a knock if I’m in the kitchen with the sink running.

    8. Joan Rivers*

      I keep my phone in my purse, not a slave to it just because it rings. She may too.
      And she may have been in an upstairs BR.
      Playing Barry White songs.
      With an age-appropriate partner, both w/declining hearing.
      So they both may not have heard “knocking” or “ringing” from below.
      And very “focused.”

      Viagra has changed everything.

    9. Uncle Waldo*

      Not everyone reacts to things in the same way. If I don’t want to answer the phone or the door, I just don’t. I usually know who I am expecting a call or visit from.

      I get that it’s weird for some to ignore incessant calls/knocking, but there are some of us who will strengthen our resolve to not answer for any variety of reasons:

      – Sometimes it is safer. I used to also live in places where it wasn’t uncommon for random people to try knocking for ages and trying doors to see if they were unlocked.

      – I don’t want to reward that type of behavior.

      – I am hard of hearing, so i often miss knocking. If I wasn’t expecting to go into work and already thought I left a voicemail answering any questions, I probably wouldn’t even glance at my phone to see who was calling and just assume I was getting a flurry of spam calls.

      – sheer stubbornness. If I didn’t know what was going on, I would just get annoyed and more resolved to not give the person the behavior they wanted. I do know some people who would try to avoid the issue (if they knew what was going on). People don’t always behave rationally.

      1. EssEss EssEss*

        Exactly my reaction too! If I’ve already done my requirement to call in to work, then I am on my own personal private time. I do not owe anyone else my time, especially uninvited visitors who pound on my door to demand my attention. If I already have a guest, I’m not going to give in to someone else’s insistent demands on my time just because they are pounding persistently. And if I’m in the middle of romantic time, I’m NOT going to ruin the mood by dealing with someone who is invading my privacy and the more they pounded and called then the more I would ignore them. Especially if it was my boss after they’d been told I wasn’t available that day.
        Also, if I was in ‘romantic time’, my phone would be on silent mode.

    10. iliketoknit*

      I think too it might depend on how you define “repeatedly.” The LW may have felt like they banged/yelled a lot, but (in addition to all the explanations above about why someone might ignore the banging) it may not have been long enough really to register as something important inside?

    11. EssEss EssEss*

      When someone is in the privacy of their own home, they are not required to answer the door even if someone keeps pounding on it. When someone is busy in a romantic interlude, they are definitely not going to give uninvited door visitors a response. And answering the phone is done when it is convenient for recipient especially since the creation of voicemail that can be checked later. Constant getting up and checking who is knocking or who is calling is not going to happen during romantic time unless you want the mood to be completely destroyed.

      In the employee’s view, they’ve already notified their office and now it is none of anyone’s business where they are or what they are doing in the privacy of their own home. We’ve all dealt with constant telemarketers and unwanted door-to-door solicitors that keep calling and knocking multiple times a day so it is normal to ignore persistence interruptions. On top of that, if you’ve already called in to work and then find your boss pounding on your door, there is zero chance that you are going to answer the door when they are overstepping the boundary like that. From the employee point of view, the only reason that the boss would be there would be to demand the employee go to work, or drop off work, or to harass the employee for not being at work that day (again, based on the fact that the employee had already called in).

      One thing that isn’t mentioned in the letter is how late was the employee before you started panicking and breaking down her door. Did she call in hours after she was supposed to start or only a few minutes after her scheduled start time? If it was hours later, yes it was more reasonable to go check on her but it if was within the first hour of her start time, that was way over-the-top reaction.

      1. nightingale*

        OP here — It was hours late, and her call-in was hours late, made to a number that wasn’t the cell and wasn’t the office in the 10 minutes it took to drive to her home.

    12. Cj*

      Also, I’m sure they waited some time after she was supposed to be there before they left the office to check on her. She left the message after they already left the office. She should have called before she was supposed to be at the office, and they probably would have saw the message before they went over there.

      And you don’t take an unplanned day off for a sex romp, IMO.

      I watch a lot of true crime shows where employees don’t show up for work and co-workers go to their house to check on them. Obviously, in these shows a crime HAS been committed, and in a few cases to co-workers show up in time to save them.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        You’re making assumptions. If they decided to go mins. after she didn’t show up, and then she called, it could be a very short time.
        Giving her some time in case of car trouble, etc., would have been smarter.
        Not checking their messages before knocking is a BIG mistake.

    13. Theory of Eeveelution*

      I don’t find this weird, I ignore someone knocking at my door unless I’m expecting a visitor or package. If someone were repeatedly banging on my door, I’d probably hide in fear, honestly.

    14. staceyizme*

      I think that when you are at home, it’s understood that you are “not in” or that you’re “indisposed”. Whether it’s an upset stomach, a bad romantic breakup or a questionable choice such as skipping work for sex/ shopping/ cramming for that final- you do kind of expect to have home be a safe, private zone. Your boss and the police both at the door? You might wonder if they think that you’re embezzling company funds or selling company data…

    1. Joan Rivers*

      I once started a new job and an overbearing, know-it-all older coworker didn’t show up. It wasn’t like her, even I could see that. But I don’t recall if they even called her; if they did, she didn’t answer and they let it go. It bothered me how unconcerned the mgr was.

      The next day she was found dead in her chair w/a book in her lap. They probably couldn’t have done anything to save her but still.

      LW did too much by going to her door but I would call her Emgcy Contact /contact caretaker or neighbor at least, given she’s “insulin-dependent middle-aged woman who lived alone.”

      You don’t go full “Swat Team” on an employee. And the fact they didn’t check messages is just ridiculous. They could be sued almost.

      1. nightingale*

        OP here — yes, I wish that we had had an emergency contact number in place. Maybe she would have answered the phone if she had looked at her caller id and seen that it wasn’t her boss calling. The one message she left was not on the cell or at the office, and it was left during the 10 minute drive to her home. Of course messages were checked during the hours that we were waiting for her to come in.

        1. BookishMiss*

          OP, you are seriously getting piled on here about not checking a message that wasn’t even there to be checked when you made the decision to go to her house! Hindsight is 20/20, yes, but we all learned a WHOLE lot about 2020 and how it’s not always the best. So i think you did right, given the circumstances.

    2. SallyB*

      “But oh lord, if I were her I’d enjoy doing dramatic retellings of that story for years. It didn’t happen to me and I still probably will”

      Hahaha me too!

    3. Joan Rivers*

      If they were so worried why didn’t they check phone messages? It’s embarrassing. For them even more than for her.

      1. nightingale*

        OP here — you’re right, it was extremely embarrassing for us. With all the time that has passed, I can’t remember which number she called, but it wasn’t the office (someone would have answered), and it wasn’t his cell. Maybe it was the home landline? The call was made in the 10 minutes it took to drive to her home, hours after she was expected at work.

        1. Lizzo*

          It’s really odd that it was a matter of minutes between her having access to (presumably) *her* phone to make that call, and being completely unreachable when boss was calling after arriving at the house…?

      2. Kevin Sours*

        On a careful read that’s slightly less inexcusable then on a first read. It doesn’t sound like the employee called out properly, instead the sequence is.
        1) Employee doesn’t show up on time.
        2) Manager calls employee.
        3) Manager leaves to check on employee
        4) Employee calls and leaves a message
        5) Manager arrives at house and starts banging on the door.

        I’m not sure why the call didn’t get picked up, but I can see why somebody wouldn’t necessarily think to check messages in the moment.

  2. Disco Janet*

    Eh, I don’t know that the employee is justified in being furious. Saying she called off kind of implies (to me, anyways) that she called off in advance. According to OP, she didn’t show up for work and then later called to say she wouldn’t be in – after OP’s husband had already left the office concerned about her.

    I’m a bit split on whether or not I feel like they overreacted since yeah, it depends so much on the outcome. But the response is worded as if she called in as the work day was starting. OP, if you see this – would you mind sharing how late after the start of the work day she called in? Because I think that does matter.

    1. Anon for this*

      I am too. How long did the husband wait to go to her house. I mean if one of my employees who I knew lived alone and was diabetic didn’t call off, and I heard nothing I would start to worry around 11am-ish. I would be worried sick by the afternoon. Sometimes things happen, forgotten cell phones, broken down cars etc. But the fact that she lived alone and he didn’t get the message would scare me too.

      I also find it odd she didn’t answer the phone or door.

      1. Anon for this*

        edited to add: I probably would not go to a house. I probably would have contacted the emergency contact (if there was one) or had the police do a welfare check as Allison suggested.

      2. sub rosa for this*

        See, I _immediately_ assumed that she didn’t answer the phone or the door because she was… how do I put this delicately… a little tied up at the moment?

        But then, I could be painting this image with my own experiences. And the one thing we really shouldn’t do is to assume things that aren’t in the letters.

        (Cringing to think about the one time 20-some years ago that I called in sick on a Monday because my special friend stayed over an extra night, and wondering what I would have done if my boss had come by and found me, quite literally, all tied up?)

        1. Disco Janet*

          Thank you! Yeah, not calling until you are hours later changes the answer, in my opinion. Makes the worry considerably more justifiable.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. This happened “years ago.” The employee could have solved her problem by either answering the LW husband’s cell phone calls or answering the door. The employee might not have had her boss’s cell phone number saved “years ago”, but she could have and should have ended the situation with less embarrassment for all by answering the phone.

      Also I think once the LW asked for a police welfare check, they should have gone back to work and stopped the knocking at least and maybe the calling. I think the false intimacy of a small business office may have influenced the situation.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Yes this has “we’re like faaamiiiily!” written all over it.
        IANAL but could the co-worker claim discrimination over how this escalated because of her medical condition? I mean, would they have done the same to another employee with no known health issues?
        (Also as this happened “years ago”, she wouldn’t be thinking of, say, police warning her about a suicide bomber in an RV like I might if it happened now.)

        1. Eye roll*

          IDK. I’m not getting “family” vibes, except in that they knew of her medical condition. I work for a government agency. Everything is documented and follows procedures. If I didn’t call in according to the procedure and ignored attempts to reach me (which might occur even with a late VM if that wasn’t an approved way to call-in, and it isn’t one for me – talking to an actual person is required), there very well may be a welfare check happening after multiple failed attempts at contact. OP appears to have over-reacted, but the employee merely had to answer the phone once after no-showing and apparently calling in late to avoid embarrassment.

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          I don’t think you could claim discrimination because there was no actionable harm in this instance. Like, she was interrupted and annoyed at home, not fired. Like, not that it’s not discriminatory, but you would have to show that it had a result which you are claiming damaged you in some way as a result of your protected class. Harassment is more in line here, but the charge would not have anything to do with the protected class as far as I can see, especially if it was not ongoing. Maybe being harassed because of a protected class has some significance?

        3. Dust Bunny*

          As someone who is single and will live alone after her parents are gone, if I had a known health concern I’d appreciate it if somebody followed up when I no-showed/no-called for work (because she didn’t call until AFTER she was expected to be at work) instead of, I dunno, letting me die on my bathroom floor. I don’t consider that “like faaaaamily”–that’s a reasonable level of concern for an employee whose behavior suddenly and without warning deviates from the expected.

          1. Anon for Today*

            When I was single and living alone, I told my boss that if I ever failed to show up to work and didn’t call in, then she should call the cops, because I would never NOT call in. When I went to the ER in the middle of the night for what ended up being an emergency appendectomy, I called in high as a kite coming down off of the anesthesia. When I was recovering at home, I nearly fell in the shower because I was so weak (I had lots of surgical complications) and ended up keeping my cell phone in the bathroom from then on.

      2. Mary*

        I disagree that this was the employee’s problem to solve-as Alison said, one doesn’t really expect one’s boss to do a wellness check or to start banging on her door.

      3. RagingADHD*

        The employee could have solved her problem?

        The employee didn’t have a problem. The bosses had a problem, which they could have solved by checking their messages and not escalating a late check-in to DEFCON six.

        Their irrational level of anxiety does not create an obligation on her beyond normal procedures – which she followed, though not timely.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          If employee called in sick then she did have a problem when they found her not sick. It doesn’t clarify what she said. Since they didn’t check messages.

          1. iliketoknit*

            But that’s not the kind of problem you go to someone’s house to solve. That’s the kind of problem you address in the office the next day, if you somehow find out (by other means than going to the employee’s house!) that they weren’t actually sick.

            1. nightingale*

              OP here — no one cared that she was taking a day’s sick leave when she wasn’t actually sick. There was fear that an insulin dependent women who normally came to work on time, didn’t come, didn’t call, and didn’t answer the door or phone though she was apparently at home since her car was in the driveway. Dealing with it the next day wouldn’t have done any good if she had been in a diabetic coma.

              1. Joan Rivers*

                If they were so worried why didn’t they check phone messages? It’s embarrassing. For them even more than for her.

                1. Disco Janet*

                  She didn’t leave a message until hours after her shift began, and OP’s husband was already on his way there. Sheesh. Some people seem really determined to jump down Op’s throat about this.

              2. Frances*

                Absolutely, OP. I think the diabetes is an absolutely critical part of this story and makes your decisions perfectly reasonable.

                Also, people are super judgmental that you didn’t check your messages while you were in her front yard. Wouldn’t that message (delivered HOURS after the no-show for work) have been on the office phone?

                1. Lyra Silvertongue*

                  It doesn’t say it was on the office phone, only that it was left on one of their numbers in between leaving the office and starting the banging on the door. So there was quite a lot of time between the employee leaving the message and the bulk of the events described in the letter, and thus quite a lot of time that neither the LW nor the husband checked their messages and/or called in the office to check in about it. LW even mentions that the whole thing took a lot of time.

                2. Yorick*

                  But she called in after the boss left, which OP has explained was HOURS after she was supposed to be in. And she didn’t call the boss’s cell phone. So I think OP was pretty much right to do a welfare check in this situation – although asking the emergency contact to do it would have been better.

              3. anon diabetic*

                Single (reliable) insulin dependent diabetic here! OP, in my opinion, you did nothing wrong at all except maybe not calling an emergency contact first. Not waking up due to low blood and not having anyone realize until it’s too late is my biggest fear. Just leaving it out of respect for my privacy would be dangerous as my emergency contact, who would know what to do medically, wouldn’t know anything was wrong until evening, or even the next day (if I didn’t call them as expected). Sure, it ended in embarrassment, but I’d rather be alive, embarrassed and know that someone cares about my well-being than the alternative.

              4. iliketoknit*

                oh, I agree. I read the comment above mine as saying the problem was that the employee would get in trouble for calling in sick when she wasn’t sick, which (if true) isn’t a reason to go to her house. I get that you actually had medical concerns, which is a different situation.

          2. ceiswyn*

            They did check messages. Employee didn’t actually leave one until hours AFTER their shift started, and after the bosses had tried to get hold of them through normal methods.

            This is all on the employee.

    3. Kim D.*

      I agree. The call-out must have happened (long) after the time she’s supposed to be/usually in the office. I feel that changes the answer.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        All it says is:

        “one morning when she didn’t show up for work and didn’t answer her phone”

        they went to her home.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          All it says is:

          “one morning when she didn’t show up for work and didn’t answer her phone”
          they went to her home.
          It admits she had called before they started knocking, etc., AFTER they had decided to go to her home. We don’t know how fast that all was.
          Once people decide to intervene this way, they tend to keep to it. It’s a decision cause it’s breaking the boundary between WORK LIFE and PERSONAL LIFE. It’s serious.

        2. nightingale*

          OP here — The letter also says that her message was left in the 10 minute interval spent driving to her home. I don’t know what number she called, but it wasn’t the cell, and it wasn’t the office. Of course messages were checked before she was called.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        From LW’s comments, the employee did not call for several hours after she was normally expected, and when she did call, it was neither to the boss’s cell number, nor to the main office line, which was being covered during normal business hours. It also sounds like the employee did not have an emergency contact on file. Under those circumstances, driving over personally and banging on the door is still an overreach, but ultimately it is one that makes far more sense in context.

    4. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

      I would love that clarification as well. It sounds as though they had tried to call at least once before they went over as well- I would love to know if multiple calls were made, how far apart, etc. I am also curious as to if the advice would have changed if there hadn’t been a message.

      Personally, although it would have been nice if they should have checked their messages after they got to her home, I don’t think they overreacted. This is based on my own experience with a coworker who went home with the ‘flu’ and was dead three days later from undiagnosed diabetes. I also have a neighbor with poorly controlled diabetes who ends up having frequent wellness checks when no one can reach him- and is back in the hospital again as of Saturday after being found in a diabetic coma. They had ample reason for concern here- a reliable employee with known health issues no call/no shows on them, doesn’t respond to phone calls, is parked at her home but not answering the door. Think how terrible you would have felt if you hadn’t done all this and she was having health issues, and put your mind at ease!

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        I wonder whether the number she called was a number they had access to once they went to check on her, though – I kind of assume otherwise since it sounds like she called a number the boss didn’t think to check first (like maybe she called the office itself and left a message, rather than his cell phone)

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It very clearly says that she called and left a message after the boss left to check on her–which would have been well after she was expected to be at work.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            They may have decided to go to her home when she was 5 mins. late — it doesn’t say.

            So we don’t know.

              1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

                OP, based on your clarifications here and elsewhere in the thread, I am going to double down on my answer that you did the right thing. You waited several hours without a response, didn’t have an emergency contact, had knowledge of a medical condition that can result in a sudden coma, and when the employee finally called she used a number that you didn’t have immediate access to and didn’t have anyone monitoring it (like your husband’s cell phone or the business phone). With the information you had available you made the best call you could. It’s the fact that the person was ‘caught in the act’ so to speak that has you second guessing yourself. People up and down this thread have shared personal stories involving diabetic comas- some ending happily due to actions like yours, and some ending not so well due to lack of action. I’d rather embarrass someone than wonder forever if I could have prevented their death.

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            I have a different read on the timing of the employee’s call-out. I think this is the sentence we’re discussing:

            “Later we realized that after my husband left the office and before he started banging on her door, she had called one of our numbers and left a message that she wasn’t coming in.”

            I think your interpretation could be valid. My read was this meant they didn’t see the message until later, not that the call came in late.

      2. nightingale*

        OP here Yes, she was hours late, didn’t answer a call from work, and called some number (I don’t remember which one) in response to the call from work. Whatever number she called, it wasn’t the office b/c someone would have answered it.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Exactly. As judgy as this is, who the heck lets their sex life interfere with their livelihood? You just don’t let that happen – the latter’s necessary, the former isn’t.

        1. SwitchingGenres*

          Calling out of work one day when you’re otherwise reliable isn’t messing with your livelihood. She should have called out earlier for sure but one personal day isn’t a big deal in most jobs.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              I’m all for personal days and well-planned romps, it’s that it seems as though she waited until after her usual start time to call out.

                1. JR*

                  And in some jobs, that’s even completely fine. I had a coworker once who took most of his vacation time one day at a time, by calling around 11am the day he wanted to take off, after he would normally have come in. It was a running joke. Thing is, his boss never minded, he never missed morning meetings without notice, he never missed days with big deadlines, and most of his responsibilities were long-running projects where no one cared what he was doing on any given day. If it bothered his boss, he might’ve acted differently just for that reason, but it didn’t!

              1. iliketoknit*

                I’ve occasionally done this when I’ve decided last minute that I want to take the next day off and want to sleep in (I have to log in through multiple security levels to get to our online leave request system from home so it’s a little bit of a pain). Obviously it depends a lot on the amount of autonomy you’re normally afforded – we have official work hours but no one in my office really monitors when people come in/leave as long as you are getting your work done and are generally around when people look for you; and we have a lot of appointments that might mean you’re not in your office right away in the morning anyway, that kind of thing. So I get that in some offices it would be a big deal, but in a lot of them, it really wouldn’t.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, that’s the impression I got. It sounds like they tried to contact her, got no response, left the office to head to her place, and THEN she called to say she wasn’t coming in.

      1. Washi*

        Right, that’s what’s a bit weird to me. I assume the order of events was that the employee overslept/lost track of time and missed a bunch of calls from the boss, realized she hadn’t called out, and then left a voicemail on the office phone. But in that case, if she notices she’s getting a bunch of calls again a litte later…wouldn’t her first thought be that it was probably the boss? Why wouldn’t she pause and at least check who is calling? I’m a conscientious employee too and if I had embarrasssingly called out super late, I would want to make sure my boss had gotten the message. OP says that her phone was audibly ringing in the apartment, so she didn’t have it on do not disturb.

        I do think the OP misstepped by not trying to call an emergency contact first. But I think most likely a lot of this woman’s fury is embarrassment at the resulting situation. (Understandable! I would be feeling the same mix of emotions too!)

        1. Alison*

          I don’t know, do we think they were calling a cell phone or a land line “many years ago”? My cell phone ringer is never on so if I was otherwise occupied I wouldn’t even know anyone called. If it’s a land line it’s a different story.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      “after my husband left the office and before he started banging on her door, she had called one of our numbers and left a message ”

      She didn’t call out in advance, though–she called out after the husband left the office (to go check on her).

      She could have called out and left a message before opening time and avoided all this.

    7. lemon*

      Even if she called in after her shift started (presumably when OP and husband were already on their way to her house), it still feels like an overreaction.

      A similar situation happened to me. I was hit by a car and couldn’t make it in to my shift the next morning. I didn’t call in because the painkillers they gave me knocked me out for hours. My phone died and I didn’t have a charger, because my sister had picked me up from the emergency room and I was recuperating at her house, so I couldn’t receive my boss’ calls. I eventually called in a couple of hours after my shift started, and I could tell my boss was a mix of furious/worried, until I explained what happened. But even though he was angry/concerned, and this was totally out-of-character for me, he didn’t show up at my house!

      Similar things have happened to other employees at various jobs I’ve had, and the first line of response was to call their emergency contact, and that was usually only on the second day of someone not showing up for work.

      1. Alison*

        Agree, this happened to me on the other end. Our office manager, who is an older women who lives alone, didn’t come in and didn’t call in one day earlier this year (pre-covid) which was very out of character for her. Our boss was worried and asked me to call her. She didn’t answer her phone, I think a land line number. I just…waited half an hour and called back. I think I called three times and eventually I facebook messaged her thinking that if I was calling a land line maybe she didn’t want to get out of bed to answer it if she was sick but most people keep their cell phones handy. She got back to me shortly after via messenger and I think she had been in the shower trying to clear out a nasty head congestion. I probably made three calls over 1.5-2 hours and my next step would have been to contact her son or daughter, who live nearby. It turned out that the office manager thought she had called or emailed (I don’t remember which) but something didn’t go through and it was just a mistake. She was incredibly sick and was out for a week.

    8. Anony*

      So 15 year ago my sister-in-law was the administrative assistant at smaller (like 15 employee) finance company. One of their associates was a 30ish type 1 diabetic who lived alone. He was very dependable. He had had a low grade cold all week, and went home early Wed. Thursday morning he did not come in. Repeated phone calls did not get a response, and he was the type to always answered the phone. Finally, very uncomfortably, she called his emergency contact – his mom who lived out of state. Long and the short of it – mom can’t contact him either, calls in a wellness check with the police, the apartment manager, etc. and he is found in the bathroom in a diabetic coma. Apparently the OTC cold meds really messed with his sugar levels & the wellness check saved his life. His mom later came into the office with a large bouquet and thank you’s for “saving her son’s life”. This is the flip side of this letter, what it looks like when their really is a problem. I agree they probably should have called the emergency contact, but sometimes being concerned about the regular employee who suddenly isn’t has a good ending.

    9. Sparrow*

      Frankly, I probably would be pissed, too, if my boss had the police burst into my home because it didn’t occur to them to check their voice mail first. That seems so basic I’m kind of astounded. And even assuming she called an office line after OP and OP’s husband had left – well, I wouldn’t have left the office without someone to monitor the phones. They’d presumably just left this person a message. You EXPECT someone to call back after you leave them a message. Not checking to see if they’d done so makes no sense to me.

      1. BookishMiss*

        OP has stated that the voicemail was left after they’d already gone to the employee’s house, and there was no emergency contact.

        1. Sparrow*

          As I said, I wouldn’t have left the office without the ability to monitor the phones. If there were no other employees in the office and I didn’t have the ability to forward calls to my cell phone, one of the two of us would’ve stayed in case she called back.

    10. MistOrMister*

      Since OP said in a comment that the employee was hours late, I don’t know that I consider this an overreaction. Only that maybe I would have called for a welfare check instead of going over myself. But really, a reliable diabetic employee that lives alone not coming to work and not answering their phone….I would have been seriously concerned as well!! It was not well done on the employee’s part to call HOURS late and say she wouldn’t be in. You wanna take a day off to play hide the pickle, that is your business. But either schedule it in advance or call before the start of your shift.

    11. KayDay*

      Yeah, this is similar to how I feel. I’m not sure where, but I read some news article about how employers reporting unexplained absences as a important way that people who died at home are found. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in how the employer handled it, but I don’t think they “overreacted” by feeling that they needed to check on her. Like seriously, if you are a taking a hanky-panky day from work, why on earth wouldn’t you call out sick reasonably early, answer your phone when work calls you, or have your “neighbor” or “plumber” (wink wink) get the phone for you or they could answer it and politely explain that you are in the bathroom ill and therefore unable to answer the phone! That said, work going to her house personally also does seem over the line. Maybe they thought it would be better to check themselves before involving the police, but regardless it does seem like they jumped the gun. I do hope they politely knocked on the door and announced themselves rather than banging aggressively (otherwise they may not have answered because they were scared it was an intruder–work hours are a common time for break-ins). And obviously not *constantly* checking messages, phone calls when you are worried about an employee is a major oversight. Overall I see this as a good instinct, bad execution situation.

  3. Anonymouse*

    To be fair, it sounds as though the employee only left a message after the OP and her husband left – checking the messages wouldn’t have made a difference before leaving beca there wasn’t one there

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes, that’s how I read it too. But it may have been possible to check the messages again later. Like, “hey, before we call the cops let’s check email and voicemail one last time.”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, if I were that concerned about an employees, I’d keep checking my messages just in case. But maybe this was back in the Good Old Days when checking messages was more difficult.

      2. Yorick*

        Honestly. You’re at her house knocking on the door. You see her car in the driveway and hear her phone ringing (not sure if it was a cell phone, but maybe). She’s not responding. Would anyone really think, “maybe she ignored us here but called the office to leave a message??” I sure wouldn’t think that. I’d expect her to at least holler through the door to get us to go away. Instead, she appeared to be at home but unreachable.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yes, I would think “let’s check messages one more time before we escalate this” when seeing the car in the parking lot and hearing the phone ring because perhaps you’ll hear on the message “I’m ill, neighbor/friend/boyfriend is taking me to doctor.”

          OP has since clarified that the woman left the message on an odd line, not the office line, which is why they didn’t get the message but still — it’s not weird to check messages one last time.

          1. Salyan*

            I really don’t understand how so many commenters think the OP could have checked messages on a landline from their vehicle. It may be technologically possible, but few people I know could do it. And why would they check their home number? They have the cell with them, there’s someone at the office – there’s literally no reason they would have thought to check the home number. There’s nothing weird about their response re the messages at all!

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Except the details you just shared as making it outlandish to try to check messages again — landline, someone’s at the office to answer that phone — were not in the original letter. The original letter just said “one of our numbers.” It’s only in reply to comments that the OP said she ***thinks*** it was their home landline (and therefor not a likely number for the employee to use when there are cell numbers and office numbers to be used instead). And yes, I would have even called the office one last time because maybe Suzy Who Answers The Phones had to go pee and that’s the moment when the call came in. It’s really not that strange.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      That’s what it sounds like, which probably means she didn’t call in until after she was expected to be at work, so she’s kind of lost the right to be annoyed that people were concerned.

      1. pancakes*

        No, I don’t at all agree. They weren’t merely “concerned”; they seem to have encouraged one another to wallow in anxiety and panic, and as a result had the police needlessly break into an employee’s home. There is no particular threshold anyone needs to meet to be annoyed at people who behave this way. It’s simply an opinion.

      2. Uncle Waldo*

        I would still be annoyed. Especially if the company made me fill out hiring paperwork that included emergency contacts.

        People make mistakes. Just because the couple had good intentions doesn’t mean that they didn’t make a mistake in how they proceeded to check up on the employee.

  4. Francois Caron*

    “But again, if the employee had turned out to need help, this would all look very different.”

    The small company I work for once called a reliable employee who didn’t show up for work one Monday morning, only to find out later in the day that he drowned during the weekend.

    I would have much preferred the embarrassing situation over the horror.

    1. sunny-dee*

      A friend of mine (well, not friend, but in the same social group) went AWOL over the weekend. When her brother finally went to her apartment Monday morning, it turned out that some time over the weekend, she had had an epileptic seizure, slipped in the bath, and died from the brain injury.

    2. hbc*

      That’s the thing–in most of these stories, you find the dead person, and the hysteria over finding them as quickly as possible doesn’t help.

      I’d love to do a risk analysis comparing the chance of actually finding a person in the timeframe that you would prevent serious injury or death, versus the elevated risk of harm through all the panicked running around, from OP and husband’s elevated stress level, someone getting mistaken for a burglar and shot, loss of health insurance when you can’t recover from being caught mid-coitus by your boss, etc, etc..

      1. Dust Bunny*

        A beloved longtime employee of ours didn’t show up one day. We found out later he’d died suddenly over the weekend. It was awful.

        1. hbc*

          I’d work that into the theoretical statistical study (that I’ll never actually do), but I’d bet good money the difference is negligible if you’re talking about someone who’s not been passing out at the office and whatnot.

          Plus, I can’t speak for diabetics, but I do not appreciate someone else deciding that my particular medical condition or living situation means that their concern overrides my autonomy.

        2. Artemesia*

          exactly — neither my BIL nor my colleague, both of whom died of heart attacks — would have been saved by quicker wellness checks, but a diabetic could easily linger unconscious for hours and a timely check could save their life

        3. JSPA*

          This. A diabetic coma is something that can easily get lethal or permanently damaging over the time-frame of hours.

          So it’s not 4 minutes (like seizure in the bath and drowning, or severe heart attack or stroke) but also quite time critical (each additional hour absolutely can make a difference).

          Per healthline, “There shouldn’t be any lasting effects if you got treatment soon after the symptoms appeared. If the symptoms occurred for a while before treatment or if you were in a diabetic coma for several hours or longer, you could experience some brain damage. An untreated diabetic coma may also result in death.”

          If someone’s emergency contact is not local (or you can’t reach them), and their diabetes is severe enough (or non-private enough) that they’ve made the choice to let people at work know about it, and they’ve made it public that they live alone / that nobody else is more likely than workmates to notice if they’re unaccounted for, then those people who’ve been informed have all de facto been put in the position of secondary emergency contacts.

          IMO, if you want there to be specific things that they should or should not do, that’s something to include in the original disclosure. “I would never want people to intervene if I don’t come in to work, but you should know about this in the highly unlikely event you find me passed out or confused during work hours” is a completely reasonable ask. As is “if I inexplicably don’t show up at work, please call my sister in Dubuque, and if you can’t reach her, call the apartment manager at this number, or 911.”

          Frankly, she should be giving a lot more side-eye to the apartment manager. “She’s there and not sick, says she called in” is the absolute maximum they’d need to share. “She’s OK” would be better yet.

          1. Yorick*

            Yes. If I’m having a medical emergency, I’ll be happy my workplace saved my life. And in this situation, I would’ve been annoyed but I would’ve answered the door to let them know I’m ok and it wouldn’t have been so dramatic.

      2. NeonFireworks*

        My current workplace had a situation about a decade ago where a reliable employee didn’t show up for a Tuesday-morning meeting, the higher ups reacted frantically, and soon enough the authorities discovered them unconscious in their apartment. This is now an office cautionary tale: we are told to be very overt if we are planning on being absent.

      3. A. Nonny Mouse*

        We had a reliable employee who no-showed and was unreachable. A wellness check found them on the floor; they had had a stroke and couldn’t get up. Getting them to a stroke center enabled them to make a full recovery. I agree that the odds of finding someone in a situation like this for whom an intervention can make a difference is rare, but I’d take those odds over the possibility of leaving a coworker to die.

      4. PeanutButter*

        I am probably biased from my former career as a Paramedic, but I have done quite a few wellness checks and found people who needed help and would have died within an hour or so if someone hadn’t called for them. Diabetic comas, hypertensive crises, mental health crises, drug overdoses (both prescribed and recreational), strokes, falls, entrapment leading to positional asphyxia, gas leaks, the list goes on.

        In every ER or EMS job I’ve had it was just understood that if you didn’t show up for your shift the police would be called to do a wellness check. This is why I ALWAYS add to my emails or voicemails saying that I’m going to be out for the day my callback number and a request to let me know my message was received. If I don’t get a response within a reasonable time, I call in again or send another message.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      This happened with a long-term employee of my current organization as well. The guy had worked there for two decades and showed up punctually or called out well before he was expected to arrive. When he didn’t show up for work, his supervisor had HR call the emergency contact on file, who also could not reach him and phoned in a welfare check. Unfortunately, he’d passed away over the weekend. Since he lived alone and his family wasn’t local, his supervisor was the first one to realize something was amiss.

      1. Storie*

        This happened at my workplace last year—someone didn’t show up. This person was always an early bird, there before everyone, so it was especially noticeable. After calling them and not reaching them, their relative was called. The relative was on the young side and asked that someone from the company meet them at the coworkers house. Unfortunately, they had died by suicide over the weekend. Awful.

    4. old curmudgeon*

      This literally happened at my workplace within the past month. A long-time and very reliable employee did not come in at her scheduled time on Monday morning; her supervisor called her home and her cell phone repeatedly, elevated it to the grande boss who also called repeatedly, then the grande boss called in the risk management officer for the organization. The risk manager got hold of the employee’s emergency contact, met them at the employee’s home, and found the employee dead.

      It has also happened in my organization a few years back that someone with known health risks just decided not to come in to work, and “notified” the org by leaving a voicemail for someone who happened to be out of the office that day. When she didn’t show up or answer her phone, the org responded the same way they did last month, and ultimately her supervisor and her son met up at her apartment to enter and check on her. She was very embarrassed – but she was also honestly relieved to know that the organization takes the welfare of its employees seriously enough to follow up that way.

      If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale for all new employees to be sure that they understand exactly what the expectations are for communicating if they need to call off for the day. Because if they don’t follow those established procedures – which are there for a reason! – there might be an embarrassing occurrence.

  5. Jaybeetee*

    Wow, this one leaves me with questions. If the husband was calling over and over, how did he miss the voicemail notif? And sex romp or not, if someone were banging on my door and calling over and over, I’d probably answer just to get rid of them! I’d also be wondering if there was some emergency.

    That said, yeah, husband and wife here overreacted. Going to an employee’s home is a big deal. It’s also hard to tell how much time elapsed between when she was missed at work and when you all went over, but most employers I’ve had give an hour or two of “grace” before calling out the calvary for someone.

    But yes, in future if someone no calls/no shows, and isn’t answering their phone, the next step would hopefully be their emergency contact.

    1. Anononon*

      It sounds like she may have called an office number and left a voicemail there, after they had left the office. So, it wouldn’t be a voicemail on his cell phone.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Yeah it sounds like:
        1. Doesn’t show up on time
        2. ~amount of time passes~ (I would very much like to know this amount)
        3. OP and husband begin calling and don’t stop
        4. They leave to go to her house
        5. She calls OP’s husband’s work line and leaves a message, not responding to any other messages on her phone (although maybe up to this point they were all from the office phone, or maybe she has a landline)
        6. OP and husband arrive and start knocking, and she does not respond.
        7. etc.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          OP has responded further up – the time frame in #2 was hours. And in #5, the employee didn’t call the bosses cell phone or the office phone, but another number (possibly their home phone) that it didn’t occur to them that she would have called.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Which makes me wonder, if he’d called a work number, was there anyone there who could have picked that message up and then called the husband on his mobile to say “it’s all right, Fergusia just called in and she’s fine, she’s not coming in”?

          1. KateM*

            Such a small office? But in that case, was it really necessary for OP and husband BOTH to go down to coworkers and leave the office unattended?

            1. Partly Cloudy*

              Unattended? The rest of the employees aren’t five-year-olds. I’d assume they both went for safety’s sake, which brings us back to the point that a wellness check by the police is safer. They didn’t know what they were walking into.

              Now that the LW has chimed in, my question to the sex romper is why she called some random number that wasn’t the office and wasn’t the boss’s cell #. Like, did she want them to know she’d called in, or…?

              1. KateM*

                My reply was for the “there wasn’t anyone to pick up office phone”, which, as we have now learnt, was not the case.

              2. EvilQueenRegina*

                If it was the boss’s landline she called (which OP says could have been possible) I can see a situation where it could have been done in error – if she had “Bob home” and “Bob work” saved in her phone memory it’s easy enough to dial the wrong one.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Later we realized that after my husband left the office and before he started banging on her door, she had called one of our numbers and left a message that she wasn’t coming in.

      The employee did not call the husband’s cell phone which he was calling her repeatedly on. She called an office number and left a voice mail after she should have been at work and after she didn’t answer at least one phone call from the office.

    3. nightingale*

      OP here — the trip to her home was hours into the work day, and the message she left was made in the ten minute interval of driving to her home. She didn’t call his cell, and I don’t think she could have called the office since someone was there. I don’t remember which number she used. Maybe our home landline?

  6. KR*

    This is such an overreaction. If I was your employee I would have quit as soon as I could after that. I know you were coming from good intentions but it’s such an overreaction.

    1. KR*

      edit – I think for me it comes down to not feeling like you can bail from work at all. There’s some times I try to take a sick day from work and I end up having to address so many texts or quick little issues I just end up having to be available even if it’s just to tell people I’m out of office. I’d be so frustrated if I called off work for a little *ahem* sick day and my manager literally came to my door knocking. I’d feel like I can just never dare take a sick day or have something come up last minute, because well look at what happened when I did.

        1. SimplytheBest*

          Probably like any normal place. You call before your shift starts. OP has said up and down the thread but the employee did not call out until hours after they should have been at work.

      1. Kim D.*

        I feel this is apples and pears. I presume you call out on time.

        In my job, you have to call out before a certain time. I think it’s fair in that case if someone is a no show/no call/no e-mail then you are justified in being worried. Maybe personally going over to their house is an overreaction but from what I can tell the owner did not go over to this employee’s house at 831 am.

        1. KR*

          the nature of my role means that if I need to call out, by the time I’ve called out most of my company is already at work and sending emails/calling. I’d have to get up extra early just to call off work, which often doesn’t happen because when I don’t feel up to work I tend to oversleep & not be in a position to wake up early. For me it’s less about calling out on time and more like, “Jeez, I can’t even play hooky or be late to work once without the literal cops being called on me.” and how frustrating that must feel.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I’ve been in this situation before, in the days before smart phones. I had a horrible stomach bug and if I was conscious I was on my way to the bathroom, vomiting, or crawling back into my bed. It took me until 2pm to be able to crawl to my laptop, fire it up, and compose an email to my boss that I was sick. It would have been REALLY SUCKY of my boss to call the police and them burst into my apartment and get in my way as I’m crawling to the bathroom. If my boss had been worried (she wasn’t), she could have contacted my emergency contact who could have said “yeah, Clever’s sick.”

        2. Uncle Waldo*

          Oh that’s interesting because I did interpret this as happening in the morning. I will have to reread

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This is really not what happened, though. The problem is not that they wouldn’t leave her alone once she called in sick. The problem is that she called in late and had an existing health condition that made them concerned. (Did they still over-react? I think so. But nothing here suggests they would have come knocking on her door if she’d managed to call in before her shift.)

    2. Sylvan*

      I would wonder if I had to look forward to this if I were sick or had a home emergency. No thanks. I understand the good intentions, but I think you hyped each other up to an unreasonable point.

    3. Me*

      Presumably you call out in a timely manner. It’s sounds from this letter that the employee didn’t call out until well after she was supposed to be at work.

      While they should have skipped going themselves and just called in a welfare check, a reliable employee who suddenly just doesn’t show (and didn’t call in until later after they were gone) is going to cause concern.

      1. Uncle Waldo*

        I mean, they both made mistakes. I am equally concerned by an employer that escalates things that quickly and personally without involving emergency contacts or letting the police report back (since they involved the police).

        1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

          I think “they both made mistakes” sums it up well. The employee should’ve called out sooner (and used the office or cell- not the home landline as OP notes, which feels shady since this was during work hours), as well as returned the missed calls she’d clearly received. The employers should have set up a system with a few more steps that includes a couple of emergency contacts and possibly another way to call out (email?).

          Then again, I’ve also called out from a hospital bed a few times so it’s probable that my personal “call out in a timely fashion no matter what” rule (which I don’t hold anyone else to! Just me!) is too rigid.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I agree; mistakes were made on both sides, but I think more of the onus lies with the sex romper for not calling in timely and not using a normal number to call in on.

  7. FickleGirl*

    About ten years ago, a very dependable employee at my company didn’t show up for work or contact anyone. She was unreachable by phone. Her supervisor went to her apartment and saw her car in the parking lot so she got the apartment manager. The police may have been involved. Anyway, it turns out the employee had fallen, was unable to reach her diabetic medication, and was nearly in a coma. Her supervisor could have saved her life.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      So on the surface the same set of circumstances – but very different cause, and at some point the coworker in LW’s story did leave a message – but the difference between an overstep and saving a life…

      But also that thing where usually people don’t take personal leave for fun times without booking it ahead so if she was trying to call in sick it may have been fraudulent, and if she was peeved because she thought she was being called out on that rather than her employers being worried sick about her she may have been so furious about the overstep to divert attention.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        But she didn’t leave it until after she was supposed to have been at work. IF she’d left it earlier all of this would have been avoided.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      I agree. I grew up with a brittle diabetic, insulin dependent mother, so this is something that’s second nature to me. The lizard part of my brain would have jumped to the worst conclusion and I would have probably done the same thing.

      1. Shenandoah*

        Same, but my father. When you have seen the worst conclusion so many times, it is so hard not to respond that way.

      2. Uncle Waldo*

        I think that’s why it’s important to reach out to emergency contacts. A mother or daughter has more of a right to be concerned and to check up on you at your home right away than your employer.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      This is probably what the OP was imagining. I’m sympathetic too; I’ve worked with someone who really struggled to manage their diabetes and went into a diabetic stupor on a few occasions at work. It would have really freaked me out if that employee no call no showed. But even in that case, going to the employee’s house, banging, and calling the cops was just too much.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yeah, I worked at a company that hired a contractor who was terrible at managing his diabetes. Multiple times our boss had to jump into help him because the contractor was slurring his word and unable to walk straight. If this man had ever been a no-call, no-show, I think we all would have assumed the worst.

      2. Observer*

        Calling the cops would not necessarily be too much – For someone like your coworker, that call could be the difference between surviving or not.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        My mom is diabetic and has other chronic conditions that can throw her diabetes out of control in a hot minute. She’s been ill at work before and her coworkers are aware that she’s diabetic. She lives alone and 100+ miles away from any of her kids. Fortunately, I know she has neighbors who look in on her and an active church community, but she also still works full-time and her employer would be the first line of defense if she just didn’t show up.

        1. Not Your Mama*

          Years ago my grandma lived alone and far from everyone, so she developed a signal with her across-the-street neighbor. Every morning she would get up and open her curtains and then in the evening close them again, and her elderly neighbor across the street would do the same. They both knew that if the other one didn’t open the curtains in the AM, or close them in the PM, that something was wrong and to call for help. It may sound silly but it was nice they were looking out for each other in case one of the other fell down or something.

    4. snoopythedog*

      Something similar happened at my mom’s work. A student employee who was very reliable didn’t show up. They followed procedure, called her emergency contact (who was her roommate, who was out of town; no family in the area), emergency contact called a few people to see if she could locate the employee, once nobody could reach the employee I believe they either sent the police for a wellness check or the roommate had someone check in on their place. Turns out the employee was very ill and unable to even make it to the phone to get help. They were sent to the hospital in an ambulance.

      The difference here is that a policy was used and the workplace followed a series of established escalating steps.

    5. Littorally*

      This is exactly what I’m afraid of. I’m not diabetic, but I do live alone and accidents can happen. I call out very punctually (usually the night before, or at latest when I wake up in the morning) so that if I haven’t called, texted, or emailed my boss by my start time, he can get concerned immediately.

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      A similar situation happened at a former workplace of mine. A very reliable employee no-call-no-showed, which was highly out of character for this person. His coworkers called the police for a welfare check, and the police broke into his house and found the guy dead on the floor from a heart attack.

  8. Chriama*

    I think it’s good to have a plan for what to do if this happens again. But also, it sounds like your immediate thought was “she is seriously injured or in need of immediate medical attention” and to be honest I’d rather you overreact than under react if you were genuinely worried.

    However, like Alison said, you can come up with a procedure that respects employee privacy while still making sure emergencies are dealt with in a timely manner. Have a checklist! Also, if there isn’t a specific way people are supposed to call in, make one! That way if people don’t follow the established procedure you can’t be faulted for assuming no contact and thus escalating your response.

    1. snoopythedog*

      Came here to say just this! Have a policy and a set of steps you follow for future situations. Ensure that employees are aware of the policy and the steps so that they aren’t blindsided if they fail to call in and you follow the procedure. Also, so that they know to keep their emergency contact up to date!

  9. Former call centre worker*

    I think this is why it’s important to have documented procedures of what to do in certain situations, like a large organisation would have. That way you aren’t reliant on decisions you make while you’re panicking, because you’ve done all the thinking in advance.

    1. Chriama*

      Agreed! Checklists are useful and necessary. They’ve found that in medical settings, even very basic checklists can save lives. It should be obviously but when you’re mentally fatigued or highly emotional, sometimes you just miss stuff.

    2. SciDiver*

      Yep, it sounds like OP when into a bit of an anxiety spiral where various details (not showing up, car still in the driveway, doesn’t answer the phone) that can have completely benign causes were all interpreted to mean the absolute worst. And this is totally normal and happens to just about everyone! We all overreact when we get stuck in that kind of headspace. Having a step-by-step list allows you to escalate the issue without going overboard too fast but also means you’ll go through less invasive steps until you have a true emergency.

      1. pancakes*

        No, that doesn’t happen to just about everyone. What you are describing happens to people with untreated anxiety disorders. To be clear, that’s estimated to be a lot of people – approximately 20% of the US, per the NIMH. That doesn’t make it normal for people in good mental health, though.

        1. SciDiver*

          Wording was weird, sorry! To be clear, I’m not saying an anxiety spiral happens to everyone–I’m saying it’s normal for people to panic during an emergency (even if the emergency is imaginary). That’s why training and protocols are so important, they give us the resources to handle situations calmly and effectively.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          I would appreciate if you didn’t diagnose people on here. A difference in risk assessment does not necessarily rise to the level of a pathology, and quoting the NIMH doesn’t make it any less inappropriate.

          1. pancakes*

            I would appreciate you re-reading my comment because I think it’s quite clear I wasn’t attempting to diagnose anyone.

    3. nightingale*

      OP here — You are absolutely right. My father had died fairly recently from a heart attack that we saw as a complication of his diabetes.

  10. bunniferous*

    At a prior job one of my fellow employees didn’t show up. One of our drivers went to check on her and discovered her dead.
    I spent that afternoon (I came in on my day off) grimly informing angry customers that their orders were a little late because of a death.
    I hope the OP doesn’t feel too badly. While embarrassing for all involved at least they were all alive!

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Those are always wonderful conversations to have (::cringe::). I once had to deal with a very obstinate contractor who wasn’t taking “Joe is handling that project now…you’ll have to direct inquiries to Joe” and demanded to talk to Bob. Lost it after multiple arguments in a circle and said “Joe is handling it because Bob freaking died last month. Now, do you still need to talk to Bob, or are you going to talk to Joe about it?!?!”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh man, I’d have been tempted to say something like “well, I hope you have a ouija board”.

      2. bunniferous*

        At that time I worked at a florist-people were picking up corsages. Sadly one of the owners died several years later and for months-MONTHS-we were having to break the news to vendors, etc. I seem to recall having to have a similar phone call as yours at some point-by then I was at the point that I truly didn’t care if my delivery was….blunt. We were all pretty much still in mourning. Both the employee and the former owner were beloved and it took us quite a while to get past it.

        (I love the comments below btw-dark humor did help us get past a lot of the rough spots!)

      3. Temperance*

        I had a freak medical crisis a few years ago and was out without warning for about a month and a half. The most memorable, hands down, was one received on the day that I came back, ripping me a new one for not registering him for a CLE.

        My boss was furious, told HIS boss, and he was forced to apologize for being such a raging dick and for not signing himself up/asking his secretary to do it.

    2. Scrooge McDunk*

      I once worked customer service for a newspaper, and my father had a part-time gig with them delivering the papers from our plant to a drop zone about 100 kilometres away. One night he got in a pretty bad wreck while on his delivery run – truck smashed to smithereens, newspapers strewn across the highway. Dad lived, but he had a bad concussion and nearly lost his left ear. After being awake all night driving up to the crash, springing Dad from the hospital, and bringing him home, I had to head into work for a full shift of people calling in to yell about not getting their newspapers (because, as mentioned, they were strewn across the highway). Most people were cool once we explained, but of course I got the one customer who “didn’t give a f*** what happened to the driver” and wanted her paper right now.

      I very nicely told her that the driver was my father, he was going to be okay, thanked her for her concern, and then hung up on her as loudly as I possibly could.

      1. NerdyPrettyThings*

        This is absolutely my favorite type of non sequitur reply: answer what they should have said instead of what they actually said. I’m glad you’re dad was okay!

  11. Chriama*

    Some more questions to determine whether you overreacted or not:

    1 – did she follow the established procedure to call out?

    2 – did she call out before or after her expected start time?

    3 – how late was she by the time you decided to drive over to her house?

    4 – was there an established procedure for being absent, and did she follow it?

    5 – WTF was her explanation for not answering the phone or the repeated pounding at her door??? (Seriously, I think most reasonable people would assume someone was urgently trying to get in touch with them at that point, so it seems like she was trying to operate on plausible deniability)

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I think #5 is key. The employee was hiding and made the situation a lot worse. She left a VM on an office phone AFTER the normal start of her work day. The employer presumed the best of her based on her past reliability so then assumed the worst of the situation especially with a known diabetic.

      1. LH Holdings*

        #5 is not key. I routinely ignore knocking on my door and phone calls just because I want to. People are under no obligation to respond to attempts to reach them. She should have called in at a reasonable time but let’s not pretend people are obligated to answer their door or phone. It could have easily been a spurned ex as it was an overreacting employer

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +100, if someone is knocking on my door and I’m not expecting anyone, I’d assume that they either want to sell me something I don’t need, or to convert me to their religion. Either way, I’m not answering that door. If someone is pounding on the door and not going away, I’d probably assume the worst and frankly I don’t know what I would do in that situation. Certainly not come to the door!

          1. Chriama*

            Prolonged knocking at the door at the same time as multiple phone calls? You wouldn’t even peek out the window to see what was up?

            1. lazy intellectual*

              If someone was banging down my door I would be scared and cowering in fear behind my shower curtains.

              1. lazy intellectual*

                Btw I agree that the employee f-ed up in general (not giving enough of a heads up when calling out and only calling out to screw their bf or whatever, but I understand why she didn’t expect the police or her boss to show up at her house.

        2. Elenna*

          Sure, but sex or no sex if someone was calling and knocking for half an hour I’d at least peek through the window and see who it was. If only so I could figure out how to make them go away so I could go back to the sex! But my default method for dealing woth situations is “get as much info as possible” so maybe that’s why?

          1. Observer*

            As others have noted, some people have reasons to not react that way.

            The bottom line is that this person is not necessarily is not that much of an outlier for not answering the phone or door.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Unless, like most houses where I live, one’s house has large windows and/or a glass door out front and the person knocking gets a good view of the homeowner walking to their door to look through the peephole.

        3. Paris Geller*

          Yeah, I used to live in a somewhat rough area and I had experiences with strangers POUNDING on my door a couple of times. The one time I did answer it, because it was mid-morning and I was expecting a package, a woman tried to barge into my apartment to “use the kitchen”. I was young, it was frightening, and I don’t open the door for unexpected knocks after that.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yikes. Many many years ago in the home country, we had people break into our apartment in a similar way. They rang the doorbell in the middle of the night and asked for a lighter, but none of us smoked and the box of matches that my husband tried to give them wouldn’t fit through the door with the chain on. He took the chain off for a second and they forced their way in. I was 8 months pregnant and was hiding in the room where our 2.5 yo older child was sleeping, so I did not see them. I did hear them saying to my husband “let’s see how you live”. He somehow managed to throw them out of the apartment and lock the door, probably the coolest thing he’s done in his life, I still don’t know how he overpowered those two men. They did tear the jacket of his track suit in half as they were being thrown out. So, yeah, right there with you, I wouldn’t open the door to someone violently knocking after that experience.

        4. Yorick*

          Sure, people are entitled to ignore knocks and phone calls. But then they shouldn’t be furious when the person trying to check on them has the police open up the door.

          She didn’t show up to work, didn’t call until later and didn’t call a number that he boss would have been able to answer, had a known medical condition, and ignored them when they arrived at her house to check on her. She created a situation where it looked like she could be in need of assistance. She shouldn’t be furious.

          If she was pretty mad when she answered when they started knocking, that might be understandable. But if you appear to be at home but can’t be reached and you have diabetes, what are people gonna think? They’re gonna think you’re in a coma.

      2. Lyra Silvertongue*

        From the employee’s perspective, she called in sick way too late in the day, and then shortly afterwards both her employers turned up banging on her door and blowing up her home phone. So while she may well have been hiding, so would I in that scenario – LW and her husband were not displaying normal behaviour regardless of whose perspective you look at.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      I wouldn’t answer the door for strangers, even if they were pounding on the door. A while ago, I lived in an apartment complex that had 2 sets of stairs in the building, each leading to separate landings. Mine was the closest to one set of stairs, and apparently whoever was closest to the other sets of stairs was the least responsible person in the entire world but loved bible study groups. After the first, oh, five debt collectors/ evangelicals claiming they’d been invited over, we stopped answering the door. And yes, the apartments were numbered. We did answer for the police, because they said police, and we could see them through the peephole (and then we directed them to the other apartment).

      If this lady had her phone on silent and assumed the LW checked his voicemail, I can see how she wouldn’t think to link “knocking on the door” to her calling out of work.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        She did not have her phone on silent. Per the letter: “We could hear the phone ringing inside the small co-op town house.” Maybe the employee didn’t hear it, but it sounds like she could have avoided embarrassment by answer a phone that was repeatedly ringing or the repeated knocking on her door.

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah there are arguments for not answering a pounded upon door (though I certainly would, and possibly it was “in character” for this lady too), but what excuse could she have for not picking up the phone?! She called out super late, after the day had started and when she did not get through to anybody she just left a message. It’s common sense that the boss may call back/may have missed it.

          1. GothicBee*

            Idk, if the phone is in the other room and she’s in the middle of sex, I don’t think it’s that weird that she didn’t hear it.

            1. Batgirl*

              Generally, yeah, if it’s a mobile. This was a landline that could be heard outside. I might be a bit culturally skewed though. I’m in the UK and I’ve never worked anywhere where you can just leave a late message that you’re not coming in and then feel free to ignore the phone.

              1. GothicBee*

                Well, I’ve never worked anywhere where I was expected to take phone calls from my employer after I’ve called off of work. Anyway, it being a landline doesn’t mean anything if there wasn’t a phone in her room. It’s pretty clear they were far enough away that they didn’t hear everything going on.

    3. GothicBee*

      But here’s the thing: the LW and her husband shouldn’t have been pounding at the door anyway. Just because something bad could have happened doesn’t mean that the LW is justified in going to an employee’s house and banging on the door. About the only thing the LW would be justified in doing is calling an emergency contact or calling in a wellness check.

      So in my opinion, it’s pretty easy to say they did overreact regardless of the circumstances. (Maybe the only time this would be alright is if the employee had arranged with the boss to check on them if they ever missed work ahead of time.)

      1. Adultiest Adult*

        This. This exactly. I know that people right now have mixed feelings about the police, but they are the only ones with authority to compel a response, and to make entry into a home if they don’t get one. OP and her husband should have stayed in their office, called the emergency contact if they had one, and otherwise called the police to request a wellness check. The employee might still have been annoyed because she was ultimately fine, but the situation would be much less messy, and, more to the point, their actions would be easier to defend than they are now.

    4. Mia*

      Idk, I never answer the door if I’m not expecting someone, and I wouldn’t even hear someone knocking on the front door of my apartment if I was in the bedroom. She could have just not heard anything until the cops were knocking/announcing themselves.

    5. nightingale*

      OP here — She was hours late for work and gave no explanation for not answering the return call or the door other than that she didn’t feel well.

  12. agnes*

    20-20 hindsight. I think there are two lessons to be learned here:
    1. the employer should first use other resources to check in on an MIA employee
    2. If you intend to lay out of work, call in before your shift starts.

  13. Stephanie*

    I think the intention was good, but the actions were a bit much. Just next time, make sure to check all channels before you end up banging on the door. But I’m glad this was just an embarrassment and not something more tragic.

  14. TypeFun*

    I’m a type 1 diabetic (therefore dependent on insulin for life) and I’d be so incredibly pissed if my employer did this to me. It’s such an overreach and violation of privacy. Without extra information you shouldn’t be treating this employees absence differently just because she’s on insulin. And this is also why we have emergency contacts! Calling the police was incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. Never do that again.

    1. Another Type1*

      So I actually come down on the other side of this! I’m also Type 1 and, while they certainly could have done things better (like call an emergency contact first), get why the OP did what they did! I would find it concerning for a normally reliable type 1 to be suddenly not reliable; it would actually set off alarm bells for me as I had a type 1 friend who was found in organ failure and almost died after her mother called for a well check after not being able to get in contact. I personally would rather be safe than sorry.

      1. TypeFun*

        I agree that if I’m close to someone and they suddenly stop responding or become unreachable then yeah it makes sense that something might have happened. Then it seems more appropriate to go check on them. The employer simply doesn’t have that information or relationship. An employee didn’t show up to work. It’s fine to show concern, call, etc. But showing up at their house and calling police is too much far too fast. I might feel somewhat differently if the employee had a history of coma or dka, but I feel like OP would mention that if it were true.

        1. JustKnope*

          In a small company like this though, where there’s only a handful of employees, the boundaries are probably a bit different. The AAM community tends toward the ultra-professional-boundaries side of things, which makes sense in theory, but in reality the OP probably felt fairly close to their employee. As yet another T1D on this thread, I also think they overreacted a bit but truly understand how it happened and why they were probably freaked out.

          1. TypeFun*

            To me I think it’s mostly calling the police (showing up to the employees house is also an overstep but in a small business in maybe a small community it makes more sense to me). I also don’t get why they wouldn’t call an ambulance if they were going to call for someone? I still think it’s too fast and acting with too little information, but the police seem like an unnecessary escalation and very dangerous move.

            1. EnfysNest*

              Calling 911 is calling 911 – I don’t think the caller is ever the one who decides which service is sent to respond. In my current town, 911 is listed as “Dispatch Operations – Emergency” and the non-emergency line is “Dispatch Operations – Non Emergency”. There aren’t different numbers for fire/police/ambulance, and there hasn’t been anywhere else I’ve lived.

              1. Partly Cloudy*

                For a wellness check, I believe you would call the non-emergency number for the local police (because you don’t know if there’s an emergency or not at that point), not 911. Police are trained in CRP too and for the safety of the first responders, you’d want the ones with guns and handcuffs showing up to an unknown situation, not the paramedics.

                In the case of this letter, sure, calling the employee’s emergency contact first would have been preferable, but what if she didn’t have one on file? Calling the police for a wellness check is what they should have done *instead of* going to the home. Let’s say the employee hadn’t left a voicemail, or the voicemail got deleted or something. How else are they supposed to make sure she’s alive and well?

                1. Valentine Wiggin*

                  Co-signed. Most paramedics do not show up to unknown situations without police first to clear the area (at least that’s how it’s done in my state). They often show up at the same time or the paramedics wait close by for police to assess the situation. Plus, police can get a landlord/etc to open up the apartment door, where they may not do it if you’re just their friend/coworker/employer.

              2. TypeFun*

                Ah I didn’t realize you couldn’t specify police vs EMTs. I guess that makes sense. In that case I guess don’t call for help? That feels like weird advice to give but I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do to avoid the potential danger of calling the cops.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Police do well-checks. Not the EMTs. The dispatch will always send the cops. Welcome to reality. And this is why the whole pull to reallocate funds is to make that not happen. Please educate yourself in first responders.

              1. PeanutButter*

                It depends – I was a paramedic, and the crisis response unit I was in (medic + crisis counselor) was dispatched by the police for welfare checks. If there was suspicion of foul play, we’d respond WITH police, but almost all welfare checks in the city were done by my agency.

              2. Self Employed*

                In my city, they send police for everything. Even if there’s a fire, they send police too–especially after we had an incident at my building where the arsonist’s friend attacked the firefighters.

            3. Observer*

              Ambulances can’t break in or ask the owner / manager (in the case of a rental) to open the door.

        2. Yorick*

          You think it’s fine for the employer to be concerned and call. Ok. They did that, and she didn’t answer.

          1. TypeFun*

            Then I’d say go to emergency contact. If they don’t answer or she doesn’t have one, I still wouldn’t advise going to her house or calling the police. At least not before more time has passed.

            1. RosyGlasses*

              OP commented above that there were no emergency contacts and the employee was hours late. Those were helpful details to clarify.

      2. voluptuousfire*

        As the kid of a mom who was a brittle T1 diabetic, my lizard brain would make me overreact. I’d also rather be safe than sorry.

        1. TypeFun*

          This isn’t a child with Type 1 though. This is an independent adult. I understand the impulse, but please done infantilize all adults with type 1.

          1. TypeFun*

            Oops I think I misread what you said! I understand the sentiment but I don’t know how well that would generalize to most type 1s. (That said, maybe my experience of being relatively stable is the oddball here)

            1. Shenandoah*

              Like voluptuousfire, I’m the kid of a brittle T1d – I honestly didn’t know until my late 20’s-ish that it was not typical for diabetics to go from mildly low to grand mal seizures in the blink of an eye. I also would struggle not to assume the worst for a T1D who wasn’t answering the phone or door, but completely agree with you that calling the cops is a bad idea basically always.

              I hope that with all of the advancements in pumps and CGMs that your experience of being stable is the more common one. (All hail the mighty CGM, preventer of seizures in our house!)

            2. anon diabetic*

              I’m stable too (was in my teens the last time I had an unable to help myself low), but I still live alone and I’m still conscious that my work is likely to be the first to know that something is wrong if I simply no-show some morning. I’m also in a region and a demographic where a wellness check ending badly is rare to the point of non-existent. All this to say, I would rather suffer the embarrassment than risk dying because of boundaries I don’t necessarily value.

          2. Observer*

            Please. Even independent adults have things happen to them. Acting as though you don’t have a relevant piece of information because the information pertains to an independent adult is a stupid and dangerous thing to do.

            I get that you would rather take the risk of dying than having your privacy breached. But that’s not a standard you can expect most of the world to uphold.

    2. WellRed*

      Also Type 1 and very reliable and predictable. My company once grew concerned when I was in (for some reason, they didn’t check with the one person who could have told them I would be late), but didn’t raise the panic alarms.

    3. Nope*

      Amen to not calling the police. Even if they are told the situation here and are told to do a wellness check, the police are dangerous for many many people. (Even if you don’t feel scared of the police, trust me, others do and with good reason.) What if the OP employee who was taking the day off had a Black person in their house? (I’m assuming they are white since OP doesn’t seem concerned about calling the police on them.) Don’t call police.

    4. nightingale*

      OP here — Yes, we overreacted, but calling the police was not dangerous. This was a neighborhood we knew well, and the police in that neighborhood were well regarded. There were no racial issues, and the policeman was accompanied by the co-op manager.

      1. Ryn*

        It’s actually impossible for you to know whether or not it was dangerous. The police are dangerous to more than just Black folks — they’re dangerous to undocumented folks, to domestic abuse victims, to intellectually disabled folks, to folks struggling with mental illness, any of whom could have been in the house with your employee. Calling the police should always be an absolute last resort, especially with everything we’ve seen this past year.

        1. Yorick*

          But calling the police WAS the last resort in this scenario. First they waited hours to hear from her, tried calling her, knocking on her door, asking the property manager to knock, and THEN the police.

        2. Observer*

          “with everything we’ve seen this past year” is not exactly relevant to something that happened several years ago.

          Also, there was someone accompanying the police, which always makes a difference. And, it really was the last resort.

      2. AngryAngryAlice*

        Calling the police ALWAYS opens up the door for potential danger and harm for the person you’re calling about. It doesn’t matter what your assessment of the situation and neighborhood is; you have absolutely no way of knowing what they will do.

      3. pancakes*

        Somehow I didn’t see this earlier. There are many, many, many cops in the US who remain “well regarded” after killing unarmed people in scenarios that many of us consider disgracefully unnecessary. Regard is in the eye of the beholder.

      4. I can never decide on a lasting name*

        Ryn and AngryAngryAlice – I don’t see anything about which country this happened in. In my country, the police do not shoot at people unless someone is in extreme danger – not all countries are like the US.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          It’s not just the US though; I live in Canada and just this past summer a woman died during a welfare check while police were in her apartment because she fell from a balcony (police union alleges she jumped, her family allege she was pushed). Similarly also this year a man died during a welfare check because he was holding a knife when police entered his apartment (despite his family alleging he intended to use it on himself which was why they called for a non-emergency ambulance – read: not the police – in the first place) and because he didn’t respond to their commands, since he didn’t speak English – a fact the police had been told at the time.

  15. MsClaw*

    Yeah, this is a big over-reaction.

    In my line of work, we have people with certain credentials. If we are unable to locate them, we have a protocol for involving law enforcement, etc. But none of that kicks in until they’ve been unaccounted for 8+ hours. Not within a time frame that indicates that maybe had car trouble, a hangover, or decided to have a leisurely breakfast. Of course the expectation is that they will call/text/message someone to say they’re going to be in late but sometimes people forget or think they’ve put it on the calendar or the person they text is also not in. We don’t wait 8 hours to make the first attempt at contact — but we don’t go to DEFCON 2 right from the jump.

    Granted, the letter doesn’t specify the time frame, but makes it sound like they reacted … way too early. And yeah, I can see how the employee was not able to get over the fact that her employers involved themselves, her landlords, and the cops in interrupting a little morning delight. That is beyond embarrassing. No telling what sort of impact this had on the employees relationships with her neighbors. Never do this again.

    1. Estrella the Starfish*

      And her relationship with them. It says she was then fired for being unreliable which they are blaming on the boyfriend but it may well have something to do with the loss of trust in her employers

      1. MsClaw*

        Indeed. That they are even now blaming her performance issues on her relationship with the boyfriend also smacks of being…. way too up in her business generally.

    2. GothicBee*

      Yeah, I’d be livid if this happened to me. And the co-op manager’s response suggests he wasn’t going to be super professional about it, so she might have dealt with a lot of negative or just embarrassing reactions after the fact. Who knows how many other people near her found out about the situation?

      If she was really reliable before this, she should have had some goodwill built up re: being late in calling out. And I can kind of get that the LW and husband were panicking, but it was too much. Also, it sounds like they were probably embarrassed too after the fact and I wouldn’t be surprised if this really negatively impacted the employer/employee relationship on all sides, causing the eventual firing.

  16. Vimes*

    Look, you didn’t handle this super awesomely, but also nobody got hurt and you learned a Valuable Life Lesson in how and how not to handle possible employee emergencies. And although I hope that that is never ever relevant for the rest of your life, who can say? So you learned the hard way and now you can make a better plan that can last both you and your husband the remainder of your careers, which is not a bad thing at all!

    I personally would add: do not call police for welfare checks on BIPOC people because that ends up with the police killing the person in a significant number of cases.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I personally would add: do not call police for welfare checks on BIPOC people because that ends up with the police killing the person in a significant number of cases.

      True – and even if the employee wasn’t BIPOC, we don’t know if the man was. Imagine if he’d gotten out of bed and gone into her kitchen for a drink of water at the exact moment when the police barged in.

      1. Kim D.*

        But should the conclusion then not be to never call the police for a wellfare check? After all, the person you know to be white (passing) on whom you are calling a wellfare check might be in the company of a BIPOC without your knowledge.

        1. TypeFun*

          Basically yes. Unless you have real reason to suspect someone is in imminent danger, don’t do a wellness check.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            +1. No need to get into the awkward racial politics of this as a justification – getting law enforcement involved is an overreach unless there’s imminent danger or you have no other way of checking up on someone.

            1. Vimes*

              It’s not awkward—I am not sure what “awkward” means in this context. This is a situation in which I think the correct course of action, at least in the US, is totally different depending on if the employee is BIPOC or not.

              If the employee is BIPOC, I would say only call emergency contacts and, if they live in an apartment complex, landlord/manager/super.

              If not, calling police for a welfare check is probably the best bet.

              Is it completely $@&?ed up that you need to have different procedures based on the race of the employee? ABSOLUTELY. But when people of different races are treated entirely differently (by which I absolutely mean killed) by the people who enforce the laws, you have to reckon with that reality.

              1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                I meant the awkwardness around some of the above questions re: whether a non-BIPOC employee might be in the company of a BIPOC, which changes the risk level that comes with a welfare check. I don’t know how comfortable I feel with employers attempting to make assumptions about who is or isn’t likely to be in my home when the police show up, so I’d rather they just choose the most conservative option.

                FWIW, I’m a BIPOC and I have more than a little familiarity with police and racism.

                1. Vimes*

                  Ohhhhhhhhh yeah I hadn’t even thought about that. Seriously, it’s kind of alarming that “multiple people can live in a home” didn’t even occur to me.

              2. Tammy*

                There are other marginalized groups besides BIPOC people for whom the police have historically been not safe, though. I would say that your guideline to “only call emergency contacts and, if they live in an apartment complex, landlord/manager/super” is the safest rule to follow for everyone, without having to get into the weeds of whether race/gender/gender identity/disability/etc. makes the risk level higher. Presumably, their emergency contacts will be able to make the informed decision about when/if to light the Bat-signal.

                I would also say that requiring a local emergency contact – be it friend, neighbor, landlord, designated coworker, doctor, or whomever – is probably not an unreasonable idea. At least one emergency contact should be someone who’s able to actually act if there’s an emergency.

          2. Myrin*

            In the US, one needs to add – this would be an absolute non-issue where I’m from and I think it’s important for people to keep in mind what the rules and customs in their own areas are and to act accordingly.

            1. anon diabetic*

              Yup! Where I am it’s foolish and naive to think that all groups (especially Black and Indigenous folks) are treated well and equally by police, but police killings are very, very rare and, I believe, even rarer in the context of a welfare check. Community context is important when it’s a potentially life and death risk (either the risk of death by action or inaction).

            2. DarnTheMan*

              There was at least two people who died in my city alone this year during police welfare checks and I live in Canada so it is a problem that’s not just exclusive to the US.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My guess is that ideally, it shouldn’t be the police doing those. When we ask a group of people in full military gear, whose job is to fight criminals, to do a welfare check, it does sound like a tragedy waiting to happen. Hopefully we’ll see some changes in that respect soon.

          1. pancakes*

            Police aren’t supposed to fight criminals, they’re supposed to apprehend them. It does not make me feel at all hopeful to see people talk about cops this way.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Well, they certainly appear to think that their job is to fight criminals, and have a wildly random definition of “criminal”. All the more reason for us to designate another service to do welfare checks.

              1. Vimes*

                I did one once! But the police had to come with me. At the time I was a psych screener for a hospital group in the Boston area. And the person was…. fine, for a value of fine that includes “fairly manic”, which was a relief.

          2. Third or Nothing!*

            I agree! I don’t want to veer off into other topics, although I think this is an important conversation to have. Maybe in the weekend open thread?

        3. Sylvan*

          I think the conclusion should be to:

          – Call the person.
          – Wait a while. Call again.
          – Still no response? Call their emergency contact.
          – No response there? Have a conversation about whether you should call the police for a welfare check. Consider what you know about your local police.

          It probably shouldn’t be:

          – Call the person.
          – Go to their home.
          – Call the police.

      2. Temperance*

        In all fairness, the owners were worried about their employee and had no information about her taking the day off to bone. The dude is a non-factor in their decision making becuase they don’t know that he exists.

    2. SchuylerSeestra*

      I’m a BIPOC and I’d rather folks call the police if they thought there was an emergency. I don’t necessarily trust the police, but I still think they have a place.

      A neighbor had an emergency situation a few months ago and I called the police while I waited with them. It did occur to me that the police might not trust me, but the stakes were so high i felt it was too important not to.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        1. I live alone
        2. The closest relative to me is awful about responding to phone calls. Like it could be hours, especially if she doesn’t know the number.
        3. The rest of my family lives out of state, including my emergency contact.
        4. Sure they would try to get a hold of my friends but that could take a while.
        5. Even if someone was able to come over, if I had was in distress they would still need to call the police.

        So yeah, if there is a potential that I’m in an emergency situation I’d rather someone call the police.

        1. pancakes*

          Listing an emergency contact that’s out of state defeats much of the purpose of having an emergency contact. I don’t understand why you would prefer that people involve the police in these scenarios rather than make a point of listing a closer and more reliable emergency contact for yourself.

          1. Yorick*

            Before I was in a relationship, my sister was an emergency contact. She lives in a different part of the country. She was listed so they could notify her if I died at work, not so they could check on me. I didn’t have anyone local when I started – I moved to the area for work. You can’t leave the emergency contact blank, and the forms don’t give you a place to explain when to contact each person.

          2. Yorick*

            Also, my sister might know if I’m in the hospital or something. Maybe my landlord or somebody else called her, or maybe I texted her as I was heading to the emergency room. So she MIGHT be able to explain to my workplace why I didn’t call in.

          3. SchuylerSeestra*

            And who would you suggest then? The relative who doesn’t pick up the phone? Seriously since you’re such an expert on emergencies. What a condescending comment.

            1. pancakes*

              It really doesn’t require any expertise in emergencies to observe that the point of listing emergency contacts is to give the employer a decent chance of getting in touch with someone in the employee’s orbit who can be relied on in an emergency!

          4. doreen*

            Because although you might call an emergency contact if someone reliable unexpectedly neither calls nor shows up for work, the real reason for getting emergency contact info is generally to know who to contact if the employee gets sick or injured at work – and for a lot of people, that’s a parent, sibling or child who lives some distance away. I mean, I might prefer for you to call my next door neighbor if I didn’t show up for work with no notice – but there’s probably a much better chance that you’ll need to call someone to tell them I left work unconscious in an ambulance. And in that case, I want you to call someone I don’t mind making medical decisions for me, even if they live two states away.

        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          It went well. They were super polite and focused on the emergency situation. I never felt unsafe.

  17. animaniactoo*

    Agree that maybe should have just jumped straight to the wellness check. BUT, depends on the town/area/etc.

    I think there are places where the employer going to check on the employee – particularly one known to have a health issue – rather than calling for a wellness check is perfectly reasonable. Meaning locations, that those are norms for the area, etc.

    BUT! I also think that no, the woman does not have so much reason to be aggrieved as she left the message AFTER she was supposed to be at work. So much after that it was between the time when the husband left to go check on her and he arrived. I don’t think the LW deserves the “check messages” as a “you weren’t thinking”. They were thinking – the employee failed to show up for work OR call in on a timeline that indicated urgency in letting the employer know they weren’t going to be in at all that day. Employer didn’t leave immediately to go check. They tried calling first. They made attempts that indicated a significant time lapse between the employee’s start time and showing up at her door. It’s not their fault that the message came in after they’d already left.

    And she didn’t pick up calls from the office either! In many senses – she did this one to herself.

  18. Reed*

    On the other hand, last year one of my colleagues didn’t turn up for work and didn’t answer the phone when his boss called him, so his boss did go round to his house and THANK GOD she did because he’d collapsed and would’ve died if medical attention hadn’t got to him when it did. His emergency contact lived in another city and wouldn’t’ve been able to get to him for hours even if they’d set off straight away. And if boss had waited for a while to see if he got in touch, as suggested, again, my poor colleague might have died.

    I do understand that this women was HUGELY embarrassed and certainly the whole thing was intrusive – but she had multiple chances to answer her phone or the door and explain she was, errr, not well, but thanks, err, bye. And she did not. So.

    1. SoAnonForThis*

      I’ve seen this happen without the good ending — the person had been dead for three days.
      I’m in an industry where substance abuse is rampant and emergency contacts are seldom accurate (many people literally put the city morgue’s phone number).
      But yeah. Ug.

  19. Delta Delta*

    I once worked at a small company, also with a few employees (maybe bigger than this one, but not by much). The office opened at 8:30. I was often there by 7:15 because that’s just the schedule I was on, and that extra hour or so in the morning was very productive for me. One day I had to make a few stops on my way in and ended up not getting there until closer to 8. Still early, still fine. When I pulled in, I looked at my phone and saw 2 voicemails and an email from others at the office, wondering if I was okay because I wasn’t there. I went in and said I appreciated the concern, but I was just running later than usual (and still early for the work day).

    I share this, because it’s possible Employee called in after the time she normally would have been there, but before it was so late that it was a problem. I can picture Owner saying, “geez, Jane is always here by now, something must be wrong” and jumping to conclusions when there really wasn’t a conclusion to jump to. I don’t envision this happening in a larger company. Going forward, I think having a procedure about emergencies like this, and communicating why (although not really sharing details) is helpful so everyone knows what to do or not in that situation.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I’m having another thought, too. My home office is in my basement, and in the back of the house. If someone came and knocked on my front door, depending on what I was doing at my desk, I may not hear them *at all.* I know right now our neighborhood’s plow guy is outside doing something but if he were to knock on my door I would have no idea. Between possible layout issues, and maybe turning off the phone, it’s entirely possible she didn’t know there was a concern – she may have thought she called in and that took care of it.

      1. GothicBee*

        The fact that they knocked on the door repeatedly, called her phone repeatedly (which they said they could hear ringing, so it wasn’t in the room with her), the co-op manager showed up, the cops showed up, managed to get someone in to deal with her dog (????) and she was still apparently in the middle of things when the cop finally went into the house makes me think that they somehow didn’t hear/know what was happening. If it’s a townhouse, maybe it’s an upstairs bedroom situation or something where the noise wasn’t as obvious as you’d think.

  20. Holy Carp*

    We had an employee – a friend of mine – who didn’t show up for work for a couple of days after she was demoted. The powers-that-be alerted me and my boss that the employee was a no-show and wasn’t answering her phone (these were the days before cell phones). My boss, a more experienced head, called the local LE to explain the situation before we drove over to her house, and they showed up a few minutes after we did.

    My friend answered the door after we’d been knocking a while; she’d tried to kill herself with sleeping pills, but had luckily been unsuccessful. She spent a couple days in the hospital and made a full recovery.

    Not quite the same scenario, but I think the right thing had been done, under the circumstances. You never know, do you.

    1. pancakes*

      I think we do—or should—know that it’s generally a bad idea for people who aren’t cops to make a point of trying to involve themselves in law enforcement. The fact that it wasn’t harmful to your friend and coworker doesn’t establish that it was necessary or good for your boss to join the police at her house, and certainly doesn’t establish that other people should do the same.

      1. Holy Carp*

        I should probably add that we were in the military, which adds another layer of complexity to the situation. Accountability of personnel is taken very seriously. The local police were called in case we needed to break into the person’s house, which was off post.

  21. Bookworm*

    While I agree you and your husband really did overreact, I also wonder a bit about the timing of her message. If she called after you had left the office and en route to her place, why didn’t she call earlier? If she had been a previously reliable employee…wouldn’t she know something was amiss?

    Although, yes, you did appear to overreact, perhaps it was for the best if it turned out this behavior was the beginning of a slide in the quality of her work, etc.

    1. pancakes*

      Alternatively, if she knew she left a message indicating she wouldn’t be in, why would she assume it wasn’t received? Let alone assume that the recipient was so anxious as to be en route to her home?

  22. Jennifer*

    Yeah you overreacted. Your heart was in the right place though. The best thing to do would be to keep checking your messages and then contact her emergency contact if you haven’t gotten a call in an hour or so. Unless you’re good friends with the person or there’s some other extenuating circumstances, you shouldn’t go to their home yourself.

  23. Triplestep*

    That said, it’s also true that calling the police for a wellness check can introduce risk of its own in some situations, particularly if the person has mental illness, isn’t white, or otherwise is in a group that historically hasn’t been treated well by police.

    Alison, could you expand upon the risks of calling for a wellness check for a person with mental illness? Are you speaking specifically about how they are likely to be treated by police? Or how they may respond to being checked up on?

    My late brother-in-law suffered from mental illness and substance use disorder. We never thought twice about asking for occasional wellness checks as far as police were concerned, but your statement makes me wonder if we should have. He would retaliate by calling for wellness checks on us, which had the police showing up at our home and workplaces. Once he started actually threatening us, we stopped the wellness checks which is unfortunate because he was deceased a long time before anyone knew.

    1. Myrin*

      Not Alison, but I’m pretty sure she meant it in the sense of people with mental illnesses belonging to “a group that historically hasn’t been treated well by police”.

    2. WellRed*

      It’s not uncommon to see in the news about a mentally ill person being shot and killed by police.

    3. Littorally*

      It’s how they’re likely to be treated by police. There are numerous examples of someone with a mental illness, learning disability, or other cognitive difference reacting to police presence with something other than complete compliance and getting hurt or killed for it.

    4. Jennifer*

      A lot of us have to rely on wellness checks. I think it depends on the area where you live and the police department. I don’t think you did a bad thing. It’s just something to keep in mind before you call.

    5. Temperance*

      The fact is that there’s not a lot that you can legally do other than call for a wellness check for people dealing with issues like your BIL’s, unless it’s safe for you to do so yourself (or know someone who has a good relationship with the individual).

      It can have dire consequences to call for a wellness check, but it can also have dire consequences not to call. I don’t envy anyone in the situation that you and your spouse were in, trying to make sure that BIL was safe and as okay as possible.

      1. Observer*

        It can have dire consequences to call for a wellness check, but it can also have dire consequences not to call.

        This. It’s the definition of a catch-22. I think that both the people who jump to “call for a wellness check” and the people who say “never call for a wellness check” forget the flip side.

    6. Mia*

      There are lots of situations where cops view the confusion and/or erratic behavior that sometimes comes along with a mental health crisis as threatening and end up hurting or killing people because of it.

    7. Insert Clever Name Here*

      It unfortunately should be part of the thought process. The police in my community were called for a wellness check on a petite white woman with a mental illness and she wound up dead. It was tragic, I understand why it happened (she charged at them with a hatchet — she was in the middle of a mental episode), and underscores exactly why we need another option than people with guns showing up for those types of things.

      1. doreen*

        I understand wanting another option – but I’m not so sure it’s realistic to think there really is one. Of course, no one can know for certain what would have happened if a couple of social workers showed up at that scene – but there’s a decent chance she would have charged at them with a hatchet even though they weren’t the police. Most mentally ill people are not violent – but the ones who are violent are also violent towards mental health professionals.

        1. Dahlia*

          That’s not just true of the US, though. What happens in countries where the police don’t carry guns?

          1. doreen*

            Not living in one of those countries, I don’t know for certain. But as much as I don’t want violent, mentally ill people to end up dead, I’m not so certain that allowing them to injure or kill other people is preferable.

            But I do want to point out that I don’t think there is any country where none of the police carry firearms. There are about 20 countries that don’t arm all or even most police officers- but even Iceland and Great Britain have some armed officers.

        2. Observer*

          There actually ARE options – we just need to put the time and effort into implementing them.

          This is not just theoretical – there are localities that have definitely made progress in this area. No one claims that these other option work perfectly and in all situations. But they definitely reduce the level of violence in these situations.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Yes, exactly, thank you. Because while in THIS situation I completely understand why it happened, there are an *alarming* number of stories in the US every year where a non-violent mentally ill person is killed because the people who do wellness checks show up with guns and since “how to deal with an aggressive mentally ill person” isn’t actually the *purpose* of their job, their training on those situations aren’t what it would be if it *were* the purpose of their job.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Oh FFS. I’m trying to be vague about the details because I don’t want to give away where I live due to other comments I make about work. Obviously no one solution will work in every situation, but I don’t know — maybe if the person who showed up at her door wasn’t a police officer in body armor with a gun at their hip or if the person had extensive training around dealing with the mentally ill (not just supplemental “here’s another thing to add to your already overwhelming plate” training), it would have been different?

    8. Valentine Wiggin*

      Sometimes people with mental illness can act in violent ways and if they’re acting that way towards law enforcement, they will end up tased/maced/shot. We had a situation in our neighborhood where someone was having a violent PTSD episode and his wife called the police. When the police went to the house, the dude open fired on them with an AR15 because he was in the middle of a flashback. It ended poorly on all sides.

  24. Mattieflap*

    This situation is why emergency contacts are a thing. The letter wrote not only completely overreacted, they invaded their employee’s privacy and thought nothing of it until *years* later.

    I know people are saying “but she could have answered the door banging! Why didn’t she?!”

    That’s a great way to blame the owner’s bad behavior on the employee. Plenty of people upthread gave legit reasons why a person might not do that.

    If someone doesn’t show up, you don’t know why, and they don’t respond to a direct phone call, the next step is to find their emergency contact. The end.

    All these stories of situations in which managers crossing this boundary saved lives is really not relevant. Just because the outcome was different doesn’t make the actions correct. I get that people have examples of lives being saved and that’s great. Fantastic even!

    The should have called an emergency contact.

    1. Alex*

      Interesting how many people are talking about Emergency contacts here… I’ve worked professionally for 20 years by now, and have never once in my life been asked for an emergency contact to be given…

      1. 1234*

        My current job started a spreadsheet of those years ago…and updated it more recently due to a client having a medical emergency at our offices during a visit. (The client medical emergency happened well before COVID)

      2. Tammy*

        Every single job I’ve ever worked, I think, has asked for an emergency contact. My current employer recently switched to a new HR system, and the day of the go-live, HR sent out an email asking people to log in and update their emergency contacts. Maybe there’s some US/non-US difference here, but considering all the instances I’ve seen of bad things happening at work (plus all the discussion on this post), I’d think it would be very imprudent for an employer not to know who they should call if something happens to you.

        1. UKDancer*

          UK here and every company I’ve worked for has asked for emergency contact information when I’ve started. It’s part of the onboarding process. I mean you could always not provide it and nobody would make you do it but it’s a fairly normal thing they ask for.

          We get a reminder at my current company every year or so to check it’s up to date but again, nobody checks whether you do or not.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I’m in the US and have provided emergency contacts for every job I’ve ever worked, not just my Professional Jobs at Very Large Companies — like, I had to give *two* emergency contacts when I worked at a daycare and when I was a barista.

      3. Partly Cloudy*

        Yep, everywhere I’ve worked it has been voluntary to provide, and not even brought up as a good idea, just available if you want to.

        I wonder about making it required, though. If someone doesn’t want to provide it for whatever reason, their employment shouldn’t depend on that. But then they should know that if they play hooky for nooky and don’t call in fast enough, they’ll be subject to a wellness check.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Fairly certain that I’ve given them for every single job I’ve had.

        Looked myself up on my company’s internal site right now and it has each of my sons are listed as both a beneficiary, and an emergency contact. It kind of worries me that none of your employers asked for one. If, heaven forbid, something happens to you at work, who are they going to call?

      5. Librarian1*

        That’s suprising, I’ve always been asked for one. I’ve been working professionally for 15 years.

      6. Third or Nothing!*

        Must be a regional thing. I’ve provided an emergency contact for every job I’ve held since I started working at 17. The only exception was my uncle’s restaurant, because well all he would have to do was just call my grandmother (who I stayed with during school breaks because my dad had to work and couldn’t afford childcare during his longer periods of visitation) and then my dad (cause even if he was a 2 1/2 hour drive away he would still need to know).

        Man that takes me back. I do not miss waiting tables or cleaning dishes or doing the back-end office work but I sure do miss all that quality time with my grandmother and my uncle.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      > Just because the outcome was different doesn’t make the actions correct.

      Yes. And we’re getting people’s anecdotes, but there’s a reason for the obnoxious saying that the plural of anecdote is not data.

      This is reminding me of people who pull out stories of people they know who survived car accidents because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt and therefore could (do something extremely unlikely). We never hear stories from the many people who didn’t survive those accidents.

      1. anon diabetic*

        I’m confused, why are incidents where workplaces intervening in some way was the life saving decision not a valid argument in this case? I don’t know how many people are saved by such interventions, but I would bet that for many people in many places having a false alarm from overzealous bosses is an embarrassment and nothing more, so I’m not sure how the seatbelt analogy applies.

    3. Whoops(ie)*

      LW states in a comment that there was no emergency contact. What then? Go about your day? Call the landlord (which they did but when they arrived?

  25. Not A Manager*

    I don’t see that the over-reaction, if it was one, materially affected the outcome for the employee. Assuming that the employers missed her message to the home office, then they would have called *someone,* who would have tried to reach her, and not reaching her, would have contacted the building manager and the police. Especially if this was at a time when many people were less aware of the risks of contacting police for certain domestic situations.

    Someone would have pounded on her door and entered her home regardless of whether it was the employer or someone the employer notified.

    I think if the employers had a good reason to be concerned for her well-being, then it was more responsible to follow up than not to follow up. And I think that any follow-up would have embarrassed the employee just as much as this one did.

    1. Myrin*

      I do think, though, that being embarrassed by and/or in front of your employer is different from being embarrassed by and/or in front of either your emergency contact – presumably someone you’re relatively close with – or the person managing your building or a random police person.
      I agree with you in principle and don’t think it would make much of a difference for me personally but I can definitely imagine that for a lot of people, especially those who draw a very firm line between work and personal life, being found like this by their employer would feel infinitely worse.

  26. Dash It, Emily!*

    I once worked at a place where, before my time, two uncharacteristic no-call, no-shows were because of a horrific murder-suicide involving two employees. It was tragic and terrifying and left a lasting impression since all staff who were around then (and it was a long-tenured organization) went into an absolute panic any time someone was late showing up or calling in. We eventually decided to let people know in new hire orientation that no-call, no-shows WILL result in your emergency contacts being called within hours because it was freaking people out (and honestly lead to more than one affair being discovered).

    I get that this comes from a really caring place, and I absolutely agree with calling/texting a couple times for no-call, no-shows, but I wouldn’t even call an emergency contact until day two and certainly wouldn’t take it upon myself to involve the police.

    I think the employee was 100000% right in being livid and I would likely have quit if it was at all financially feasible for me to do so.

  27. SheLooksFamiliar*

    The OP and her husband were out of line for driving to the employee’s house. If they truly feared a medical emergency, what did they think they were going to do once they got there? Swinging into action sounds good and all, but it’s best left to the professionals.

    If you are truly concerned about someone’s health, call their emergency contact first to see if s/he knows something you don’t. If s/he does not, call the police for a well-being check. Explain your concern about the person’s health, and the police will show up with EMTs. These folks know how to handle emergencies and save lives.

    1. nightingale*

      OP here — Yes, you (and everyone else) are right about the emergency contact. We did call the police, however, and they did not show up with EMTs.

  28. Knope, not today*

    Definitely overreacted. I had a somewhat similar situation. I went on a business trip to Costa Rica a few years ago accompanied by a younger colleague who worked for a vendor my company was hiring. I am a typical “mom” type and he was in his early 20s. One morning I show up for the taxi we normally shared to the office and he was nowhere in sight. Proceed to the office and the guy never shows up. His manager tried calling him, no answer, no return phone calls. They called his hotel room, no answer. I was so worried! I knew he had planned to go out the night before, so I was vacillating between imagining him having been mugged or robbed, or having the time of his life waking up in some girl’s apartment. In the end housekeeping woke him up when they walked in to clean his room. He was so hungover he missed his alarm.

  29. Bridget*

    As someone who lives alone, I do want my employers to be concerned if I unexpectedly don’t show up to work, but I agree with Allison in that I’d prefer them to contact my “in case of emergency” person on file first. In my case, it’s my mom and she could be at my apartment with her spare key in 20 minutes if she couldn’t reach me either. If the emergency contact lives too far away or can’t be reached either, then I can see asking the police for a welfare check. So to all my current/future employers/bosses out there, please be concerned if I don’t show up for work but I’d rather you not jump straight to calling the police!

    1. Anon for this*

      My elderly parent’s home health aide started doing daily check-ins after she’d had a client not call or answer calls for a couple of days and the client turned out to have died in their apartment. Now my parent has to get in touch with her once a day and let her know they are alive and well. So I totally get the concern, but I agree with you about calling an emergency contact first and maybe giving it a longer wait period (I’m willing to bet my parent’s HHA won’t call the police, unless maybe it’s been a few days and none of the emergency contacts can be reached.)

    2. DarnTheMan*

      +100; my parents live a short drive from me (I also live alone) and my dad is retired so in a pre-COVID, before WFH world I stressed to all my employers that if they ever couldn’t get a hold of me, to call him because he could easily pop over and check.

  30. Not playing your game anymore*

    We had a relatively new employee. She’d been with us less than 3 months and had already been late several times (and we’re a public facing org. You NEED to be there to greet the public when you’re scheduled to be) Anyway Michelle had been late / left early several times and was probably not going to survive her 6 month probation. One day she didn’t show up. At all. We were somewhat hopeful that she was just going to quit. Well, she came in the next day furious that we didn’t call and tell her she needed to be at work. “Why?” I forgot to come in, and you should have reminded me. “Uh. It was Thursday. Don’t you always work on Thursday?” Well yeah, but I could have be murdered in my bed, or dead in a ditch. And you didn’t care enough to check on me…

    For the rest of her time with us (2.5 months) she would throw little snits about being dead in a ditch…

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        Hah. You are correct. As we say in the library world, she not only had issues, she had whole volumes…

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Not quite the same, but her response reminds me a bit of my cousin when he was working in London at the time of the 7/7 bombings – my aunt tried to call him at work that day, eventually got through and he wasn’t at his desk. Whoever took the call said “Oh, he’s about somewhere” and then didn’t tell my cousin she called, so a couple of hours later he was calling his family asking why no one had called to ask if he was all right.

  31. Anon 2.0*

    I spoke to someone work related but not in our office on a Friday. On Monday she didn’t show up and that office-several states away-called us immediately because she didn’t show up and that was not like her. They were afraid she had quit. They did not go to her house but she was also middle aged woman who lived alone but I don’t believe she had a medical issue. We learned later she had passed away in her apartment that weekend. I understand the boss’ concern but he crossed a line going to her home, even doing a drive by. Calling emergency contact is the next step and that is what it’s there for. If you have employees again discuss with them if they do not call or respond and it’s unusual you will reach out to emergency contact to make sure they are ok.

  32. KatieR*

    I don’t think they acted unreasonably. It doesn’t sound like she had an emergency contact that lived with her. My mom went to an employee’s house who didn’t show up and didn’t answer calls. She had had a heart attack and died.

    1. Uncle Waldo*

      Your emergency contact doesn’t have to live with you. They are people you have designated as appropriate to be involved in emergencies. None of my emergency contacts live with me, but I will always answer the phone for them; I also know they are each people who know how to or will find out how to reach me if I am unable to answer. Moreover, I trust them to relay only the information my employer needs. The co-op manager would NOT have been on my list for sure.

      It’s a good step to have because it can at best avoid escalating an issue and at worst demonstrate and validate the need for other courses of action like involving the police and her co-op manager.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Yes, this. My phone is set to ring for calls from three specific people even if it’s on Do Not Disturb.

        Almost nobody includes their boss, other coworkers, or apartment manager in that short list–but I can list anyone, and as many or as few people, as I want.

  33. Sparkles McFadden*

    It’s hard to know how to react in the moment, and no one will ever be happy with what you choose to do, so you have to rely on your own judgment. As someone who has been there, I say: Check all of your devices for messages, check with coworkers to see if they’ve heard from the employee, check emergency contacts. If the emergency contact hasn’t heard from the person, then that person should call for a wellness check.

    I had an extremely reliable direct report not show up after a holiday weekend. I had spoken to the employee over the weekend about a work-related matter, and it was very out of character for him not to call in. After checking for messages on all of my devices, checking with his coworkers and my own manager to see if they had been contacted, I called the employee’s emergency contact. This was a spouse living elsewhere, setting up their planned retirement home. The spouse could not contact the employee either, and went into quite a panic. At that point I decided to call the police in the employee’s town and ask for a wellness check – and got screamed at by my boss, my grandboss and HR for “exposing the company to risk.” The lecturing continued until ten minutes later, when the police called me back, telling me the employee was dead in his home. I provided the police with the emergency contact information (HR refused to get involved), and as much information as I had.

    Fast forward to a few days later and grandboss was now in my office demanding why I had no information on how the person died and telling me I needed to call the employee’s family immediately because “People want to know what happened.” A couple of people suggested that I should have called sooner because “Maybe he could have been saved. Don’t you feel bad about that?” HR maintained I should have called no one, and waited to let the family (none of whom were in the same state) find the employee, and my boss just wanted to know when I’d be able to get company equipment back. To that I replied “Maybe I will wait until after the funeral to ask the family to return the company cell phone.” Oy.

    1. 1234*

      I don’t see how it would “expose the company to risk” by calling the police for a wellness check? Are they suddenly going to go “Employee works for Llama Groomers Are Us. Maybe we should look and see if they’ve committed any fraud lately or have any unpaid taxes?”

      It’s not your job to call the immediate family? The police can take care of that. Also, your boss sounds like a real sensitive person. *sarcasm*

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        I ended up talking someone fairly high up in HR about that later on. She said “What? That doesn’t even make sense.” So it was our local rep not wanting to deal with it I guess.

        Yeah…the boss had some issues…

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Ha, well..I worked there for 30 years! I really did love it there, though it did make it hard to work anywhere normal after three decades in crazy-land.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Holy cow. Sounds like you would’ve gotten screamed at by your boss no matter what you did.

      “People want to know what happened.” well, nice of them to feel curious, but they aren’t entitled to this information, much less immediately. And don’t get me started on the weird combo of “you should’ve called sooner”, “you shouldn’t have called at all”, and “how soon can his family give us his equipment back?” Smh.

  34. Percysowner*

    Past experience really plays a part here. Someone I knew from another department left work in an obviously upset condition. He didn’t call in, and eventually they sent someone to do a wellness check. He had committed suicide. There were a lot of coworkers who berated themselves for not checking earlier, because maybe they could have intervened.

    The LW reacted in what turned out to be a precipitous manner, but considering the alternatives, it wasn’t a completely wrong call.

    1. Uncle Waldo*

      But it was. As Alison and others have pointed out, the appropriate first step was an emergency contact. That person would have found out whether the person was okay or not.

      If no emergency contact answered, we can see that this couple was already familiar with and comfortable with calling in a wellness check. In this case, the police would have (and did) find out that the person was okay.

      None of that determines that pounding on someone’s door and calling them repeatedly is the right call. If it had been a true emergency, I doubt those two things would have made a difference; instead, what is truly essential in an instance where someone is not responding to anything is access to the home — which an emergency contact or police — can get much better than the couple.

      1. Percysowner*

        Except people have pointed out that calling in the police is no longer considered necessarily safe, especially if we are taking about POC. The LW doesn’t say if the employee had an emergency contact. I can see situations where there might not be one, or there might not be one in the immediate area. Obviously under the circumstances it was the wrong call, but I don’t think it was totally cut and dried.

    2. Talley*

      “Later we realized that after my husband left the office and before he started banging on her door, she had called one of our numbers and left a message that she wasn’t coming in.” My reading of this is that she didn’t call in until after she was late enough that the boss was headed to her apartment. So. . . late. I can’t speak to how long that was, if she was only a half hour late at that point, probably too quick on the draw. If she was half a day late at that point, entirely appropriate to have someone check on her!

      1. Talley*

        I don’t know why this showed up as a sub-comment. It was supposed to be a new comment. I don’t this this is responding to the original commenter’s point. Sorry! [Insert shrug emoji here]

  35. PT*

    I *was* this employee once!

    I was sick with a fairly serious infection and I was semi-delirious with a fever. I called several different numbers for my boss: no one answered. I finally called the main contact line for the building, and no one answered that, either. Finally I got through to a voice mail box and left a message there, and went back to sleep.

    No one got the message and they thought I no-called no-showed and were very concerned because I was reliable and generally didn’t call out at all, so they called my other boss, who called my emergency contact, who was my mom in another state, who somehow got through to either me or my now-husband to sort out what happened.

    No one came to my apartment or sent a welfare check which was fortunate, since I’d spent the night at my boyfriend’s. He lived half an hour closer to my work than I did and I used to stay there when I wanted the extra sleep (not feeling well, crazy early or late hours, etc.)

  36. Former Teacher*

    When I was teaching, I was a super reliable, never call out sick employee. One Sunday, I realized I was too sick to work the next day. I went to school, wrote sub plans, get everything organized, and followed the sub protocol by calling the assistant principal at home and leaving a message telling her I was sick and needed a sub. Turns out, her mother died that weekend, and no one got my message or knew I was not coming to work. my phone rang at the exact moment my first class of the day would be coming into my room. I was half asleep and was very far from the phone, so i didn’t get up and race to it. No one left a message. The next day, I learned that they were that message-less call, and that they had not gotten me a sub, had not called my emergency contacts, had not called back. They had done nothing. I asked why and they said, “we assumed you just didn’t call in.” I was mad–I lived alone, was super responsible and responsive and just not showing up for work was totally out of character for me. No one had even gone into my room to see that there were sub plans. they just left the kids in my room with the door open and no direct supervision.

    1. Librarian1*

      Wow that’s completely irresponsible and possibly dangerous for the kids, depending on age!

  37. CBH*

    I wonder if there is a way when filing out emergency contact paperwork – can you ask how they would like you, the employer, to handle a situation?

    I mean in this particular case HIPPA is involved that you can’t flat out say at what point should I be worried; in addition I’m sure the employee has their own backup and health concerns under their own instructions in their personal life.

    I’m just wondering if there is a way for an employee to leave a note or a way for an employer to outline a here is what we do when we don’t hear from you in their paperwork.

    1. Joielle*

      HIPAA is not involved here, that only applies to health care providers, health insurance companies, and the like. HIPAA would prevent the employer from getting the employee’s health information from their doctor, but they could certainly ask the employee what to do if this situation came up.

      Realistically, though, it would probably make more sense for the company to just have a policy on what to do if someone doesn’t show up to work. Then the employer has a plan and doesn’t panic and do something weird, the employee is aware of what will happen and is not surprised, contingencies can be addressed, and if anyone needs an exception to the policy it can be ironed out ahead of time.

      1. CBH*

        This is exactly what I was trying to get at.

        *** by HIPPA I should have said – it’s not appropriate to speak of someone’s personal situation in public. The employee should not be singled out.

  38. dana*

    Several years ago, I had a coworker with manic-depressive disorder, which was managed (not all that well, honestly) with meds and a lot of therapy. She’d split from her husband years before and had thrown a feckless boyfriend out of her house, more recently. There’s a great deal of back-story that would make this comment prohibitively long, but she met a guy on a dating site and immediately hopped into a whirlwind relationship that started out seeming normal but ended up with a whole bunch of drama (restraining orders, angry phone calls to the new boyfriend’s child and ex-wife) which seemed to exacerbate the manic depression. Anyhow, one day she did not show up for work. No call, no text, no email. A few hours went by–she wasn’t answering her phone (or replying to texts/email), and I was really uneasy about it, so I called the police and explained what had been going on with her and asked if they’d do a wellness check. They did, and they found her unconscious on her living room floor with a mostly empty bottle of whiskey and an empty bottle of pills, so they gathered her up and brought her to the ED, who stabilized her and checked her in to a psychiatric hospital. She ended up checking herself out long before she should have, but that’s a story for another day. In this particular instance, the intervention saved someone’s life, but I think that calling the police AND showing up at her house was way too much.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      It really does depend on the situation. Plus, in your example, you followed a logical progression. I think the LW did too much too soon and all at once.

  39. hbc*

    I know this is water under the bridge and the employee did some things that didn’t help the situation, but I wouldn’t work for you if I heard this story.

    -I can’t abide any combination of “woman” + “alone” + “physical issue” = “needs rescue.” Me being any of those things does not authorize anyone to check in on me beyond what you would do for anyone else.
    -There was a lot of irrationality on display here. You feared she was in a coma so you…continued to bang and call, because that helps with comas? Her car was there and the most likely possibility was incapacitating illness, not oversleeping or having gotten a ride somewhere else?
    -You didn’t prepare for the most likely possibilities (slept in, playing hooky, etc) by forwarding your phone or having someone man his desk before riding out for the invasive home visit for the least likely possibility.

    I think it would be reasonable to preemptively ask people if they want anything done if/when they don’t show up for X hours/days, but otherwise, you’ve just got to accept that you can’t be personally responsible for an employee’s health and safety at home.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Eh, I’d push back on “alone” not being something of a reason for extra follow-up, although not necessarily in an employment context.

      For example, I have two cousins. One lives alone, just her and and her dog, in a city that she moved to within the past few years. The other lives with her dog, her cats, her husband, 2 children, and her mother-in-law in the city she grew up in. If I text them both something like “Happy New Year”, they each generally respond the same day. If I don’t hear back, I am much more likely to send a follow-up text to lives-alone the next day, and possibly even text the other cousin or my aunt and uncle to see if anyone else has heard from her than I am to do the same for 5-people-in-a-3br-house cousin. (The logic being that there are relatively few disasters that can overtake 5 people at once in a way that is not immediately deadly but requires outside intervention compared to those that can overtake just one person.)

    2. anon diabetic*

      In general, I 100% agree about the helpless women trope. However, I think the issue being diabetes is a different situation.
      – Diabetes is a disease that can take you from perfectly fine and independent to very much not fine and completely unable to help yourself very quickly.
      – I would really hope op would have done the same for a male single diabetic.
      – diabetic emergencies, (versus stroke, heart attack, anaphylaxis) do have a window of a few hours where you’ll be fine with treatment. If someone noticed I was missing and called for help before, say lunch time, the chances of a positive outcome are much higher. If they waited days to seek help, I likely wouldn’t make it.
      – A diabetic coma is probably better compared to getting progressively drunker than all or nothing coma, so banging isn’t entirely useless.

  40. officebee*

    I did something very similar several years ago. A coworker, who lives a short walk from the office was a no show. We tried calling, but got no answer. We called her mother (her emergency contact) but she didn’t have a car that day, so I walked over to her house. Her car was parked in the driveway. I knocked on her door and her dogs started barking franticly but she didn’t answer. I got a weird feeling about it and decided to have the police do a wellness check. When a neighbor saw the police there, they offered up the spare key to her place they kept for her. Unfortunately she has slipped and fell in the shower and had been dead for several hours before we found her. It was all very upsetting.

  41. SwitchingGenres*

    The overreaction was going there yourself. Call the emergency contact or, if you really need to, the police wellness check (though that depends on the employee—as Allison says, if the person has a mental illness or isn’t white I wouldn’t do it). But driving to her place and banging on the door? I’d be upset at that if I was the employee.

  42. Jessie J*

    I wish we could hear from the woman who worked for the letter writer. I bet her input before being fired would be very telling. My guess is that the owners told her personal business to the coworkers and working there was hell for the last few months.

    Btw working for a “family business” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Families don’t often know how to remain professional.

    1. nightingale*

      OP here — You’re right that the family business wasn’t very professional. It was generally fairly kind, though. We didn’t tell anyone, but she told the other employees immediately when she returned the next day.

  43. 1234*

    This story spans about three or four months. I’ve had to call the police to do a wellness check on one of my friends/colleagues whom I had met through work. At the time, we both worked on a contract with Melissa, who owned her own company. For this project, Melissa hired my friend, Lucy, myself, and Lucy’s other friend Carrie. Melissa hired Lucy as the project lead and she would supervise the rest of us. Because Lucy was the project lead, she was mailed expensive equipment for the project that she was supposed to return at the end of the project. Apparently, Lucy failed to return the equipment and would not respond to calls or texts or emails from Melissa. Lucy also did not fulfill some of other other lead duties and Melissa is missing some information that she needs.

    Melissa knew that I was friends with Lucy and asked me if I’ve heard from her. “No I haven’t. But Lucy is generally very responsive but she does work a lot and on multiple contracts. If I hear from her, I will let her know that you are looking to get in touch with her.” I text Lucy and let her know that Melissa has reached out to me looking for her. I receive no responses from Lucy either. Melissa also contacted Carrie who has not heard from Lucy either. We let some more time go by and nobody has heard from Lucy. Melissa tells Lucy that she is getting worried and that she will involve the police if she does not get her equipment back or hear from Lucy. We both still attempt to call/text Lucy and realize that her phone is still on. Either Lucy or whoever has her phone “disliked” some of the texts that I sent her saying to please contact Melissa. This person also sent me some very cryptic texts back, and seemed very casual (“Hey girl!”) and not at all urgent. This person also responded “Ok” to another text I wrote saying “Please contact Melissa.” We also notice that her voicemails were full weeks ago, unable to leave a message and then suddenly, we can leave voicemails again. Melissa never heard from Lucy even after the “OK” confirmation.

    Because of how worried I was, I contacted the police in the county that I think Lucy lives in, using the non-emergency hotline. The police actually meet me in person and tell me that they went to the address on her license and the people who answered the door said that my friend doesn’t live there. The police also tell me that this is not the first time that someone has called them regarding my friend. In fact, multiple people have called the police on my friend! They basically acted like “Well your friend doesn’t want to talk to you so we can’t really make her.” At this point, it is important to note that Melissa lives elsewhere in the country and is not local at all to our area so she called the police in our area and spoke to detectives who basically told her how to make a claim for her missing equipment and gave her the same phrase they gave me about Lucy not wanting to talk to us.

    We are now wondering the reason that Lucy is doing all of this. She has no reason to keep this equipment. We don’t believe she is looking to sell everything for money. During this time, we also find out that (1) Work history that Lucy provided Melissa is fake. Lucy claimed to have a professional license that is publicly searchable online. She does not come up on that database. A different friend of mine has the same license and her name is on the database. She is the one who told me about the database. (2) Lucy’s address on her tax forms is a fake and so is the social security number and birthdate she provided. (3) Lucy has done this same thing to other people.

    I am not sure what ended up happening with all of this. Because of this whole situation, I no longer engage in contact with Lucy. She will sometimes text me during the holidays to say Happy New Year etc. but I will only respond back politely “You too!” and not text further. I am going to be cordial since she is in the same industry but nothing more than that.

    1. pancakes*

      If I understand this correctly, all of this could’ve been easily avoided if Melissa had done basic due diligence before hiring this person.

  44. bananab*

    If this was soon enough after a scheduled start that your lines could even cross this way, then it seems like a comically huge overstep to me. Like I imagine this unfolded over a couple hours, so the idea of waiting long enough to determine a no-show, calling, going to the residence, banging on the door, calling the police (???) in that time is not something I would ever expect as an employee.

    1. nightingale*

      OP here — no, it was hours past the start of business. She responded to a call from work asking her how she was midmorning in the 10 minutes it took to drive to her home.

      1. bananab*

        Same-day at all, really–like certainly noteworthy and I’d expect there to be serious repercussions if I had no excellent excuse for an all-day no-show, but I still wouldn’t expect a wellness check. Maybe after a second day.

  45. zeldafitz*

    Is there a reason OP thinks the reliable was suddenly unreliable because of a new boyfriend?? If my employer tried to bust down my door instead of following any semblance of procedure, I’d be pretty freaking livid as well, and would suddenly be putting a lot more effort into finding different work than being reliable for the current employers who’ve made it clear they will blatantly disrespect any boundaries.

    1. nightingale*

      OP here
      The unreliable conduct that followed included disappearing from work more than once with the explanation that the boyfriend needed her for something.

      1. zeldafitz*

        Ah, yes that is more explicit.

        That said, if anyone called the police to my house (Black woman) for anything less than an actual child being in immediate and obvious danger, it would sour the relationship and despite my best efforts to remain professional, I most likely wouldn’t be the best employee after that.

  46. Malarkey01*

    As someone who had a wellness check performed when a boyfriends parents overreacted at being unable to contact their 30 year old son for 2 hours, I’ll add that a wellness check can feel very violating, ESPECIALLY when police and property managers enter without knowledge. It’s had to describe what it’s like to wake up to police in your room and know that someone called for a wellness check on you, another adult. I had difficulty sleeping after it, and woke up in a panic several times. Someone I described it to compared it to the feeling after a burglary.

    You need to use it very carefully, and there are lots of reasons that people don’t answer doors in shared living situations (my neighbors door knocks sounded like mine and vice versa). Using it after a late morning call in seems like an overreaction.

  47. RagingADHD*

    The LW & her husband weren’t completely horrible, but they certainly weren’t appropriate either.

    I kind of wonder whether this was the only time they were over-the-top or intrusive with their employees, or just the most extreme case?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the employee deliberately turned her phone off after calling out, hoping to avoid being pestered. Too bad it backfired.

  48. ggg*

    It does not say how long they waited before this caper. If they drove over to her house at 9:05 that’s ridiculous. But if they called her at 10 and no one answered and she hadn’t called in by then AND they had significant reason to worry that she might not be OK, slightly less ridiculous.

    Yeah, they should probably have called an emergency contact first. But if she was not answering the police banging down her door, would she have answered a phone call from her emergency contact?

  49. Alice's Tree*

    I think you’re wrong here, Alison, in suggesting that the LW over-reacted. I lost a friend because her employers waited till the afternoon to call in a wellness check. Perhaps calling the person’s emergency contact or calling for a wellness check would have been the logical choice, rather than going to the house themselves, but the outcome would have been the same.

    Also, does anyone else think the woman must’ve been on drugs to ignore all that (and then suddenly become irresponsible after a history of responsibility)? I feel bad for the employer here.

    1. Uncle Waldo*

      If the outcome is the same then how can it be wrong to involve an emergency contact first, someone who an employee has designated as the appropriate person to involve?

      Why would she “be on drugs?” I don’t see how you can jump to that conclusion.

    2. pancakes*

      The outcome of a wellness check should not be the same as the outcome of a employer inexplicably taking the matter into their own hands, no – the professionals who carry out wellness checks, whether they’re police or EMTs, have training, equipment, the legal authority to enter a person’s home in an emergency, and other resources that random civilians don’t have.

  50. nightingale*

    OP here I should add that the employee was hours late and that the phone message was left in the 10 minute interval between the time we left the office and got to her home. Hubby had had a friend who was a very reliable person who didn’t come into work one morning and didn’t call. He was only in his 30s, and when his office had a wellness check done, the friend was found dead in his apartment (he’d had a stroke).

    1. Uncle Waldo*

      Thanks for clarifying the time. I initially read this as occurring earlier. It helps, but I still think you two should have done things differently.

    2. Miss Curmudgeonly*

      A company I worked for had a similar situation – reliable employee didn’t show up for work, they called for a wellness check…..and she had been murdered the night before while going into her apartment.

      My kneejerk reaction is to think oh, of course you should have called for a wellness check instead of going there yourself…but…..I can see myself doing something similar, actually. It’s a small company, everyone knows each other really well, they person lives nearby. Sure, I’d likely zip over there to see if everything’s okay. That seems realistic to me. If I were missing work for a liaison, I’d definitely make sure to leave a message for work early in the day!

    3. SEM*

      People are being really hard on you but I think many people would have done the same. People are human and miss messages

  51. Kelaine*

    Definitely an over-reaction and inappropriate. Should have called the emergency contact, should have checked messages, should have waited at least another day AT LEAST before calling the police for a welfare check. Yes, it’s possible the employee is dead – in which case, waiting a few days isn’t going to change anything. But it is also possible that the employee is just being irresponsible and is running their own life the way they wish – which is their right as an adult, even if they get fired. In contrast, going to someone’s house who you don’t know personally (!?) and banging on their door and refusing to go away when they don’t answer, acting like they could only be dead if they don’t answer your knock – that is super offensive because you are assuming a parental or close friend role that you don’t actually have.

    1. Amy*

      “Yes, it’s possible the employee is dead – in which case, waiting a few days isn’t going to change anything. But it is also possible that the employee is just being irresponsible and is running their own life the way they wish”

      Or possible that the employee is alive, but incapacitated and getting to them quickly will prevent them from becoming dead.

  52. Amy*

    I called in a wellness check on my father last year. He’s 80 and was debilitated by a bad flu. I was 600 miles away and was concerned he might die.

    The police came, convinced him he needed to drive to the hospital and… he had a car accident on the way to the hospital. He never should have driven and I still don’t know why the police did not call an ambulance when they felt he needed to go. Or just left him home, he would have been safer.

    I now have a number for an emergency nurse service I will likely call if there’s another time like this.

  53. Please check on me!*

    I live alone on a little farm and work in an office. I’ve specifically asked my boss to call the police or my emergency contact for a wellness check if I ever just don’t show up, though I expect he would wait until mid-day at least (to allow for “normal” calamities like car trouble and my phone is dead). I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady that dies and nobody notices for weeks, and work is the only place/person I check in with on a regular basis.

    1. 1234*

      That would be different since you requested that your boss do this. I don’t think the employee asked that the OP go and bang on her door and call the police if she didn’t show up for work.

  54. Tammy*

    To my inline comments above, I’d add one additional thought: It’s probably a very prudent idea, especially (but not exclusively) if you live alone and/or have serious health issues, to think through this issue a bit. In my case, my next door neighbor (who is also my landlord and a friend, and who has a key to my house) is listed as my primary emergency contact at work. He has a list of my family members, none of whom are local, and their contact information.

    I also am now planning to have a conversation with both him and my boss, along the lines of “here’s when not hearing from me should raise an alarm, and here’s what I’d like you to do (and not do) if it happens.” That way, I get the chance to make those decisions, instead of having someone else – no matter how well-meaning – make them for me.

    1. Lizzo*

      +1 to this. As other commenters have mentioned, diabetes has the potential to be fatal, so in that sense I don’t think the OP was overreacting. However, the employee should be proactive about their preferences if their employer perceives that there is an emergency, and also have some awareness of how situations might be interpreted if they (employee) are not being responsive, which is more likely due to the employee’s health condition.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        This strikes me as a sensible and kind way to go about things. I have multiple relatives with diabetes, and for several of them it ultimately proved fatal. A situation like this (particularly bearing in mind LW’s husband’s history with the deceased friend), is an important reminder to have these kind of procedures in place, whether you are the employee or the person who can set these kind of procedures.

  55. Ellyfant*

    Something similar happened at my old workplace where the supervisor also responded similarly – drove over to the employee’s place, saw the car parked outside, and borrowed a neighbour’s ladder to check inside through the window. Not sure of many details but it turned out the employee was deceased.

    In this case the only difference to overreaction to foresight was the outcome. I can understand why the OP’s husband was concerned enough to drive to his employee’s place. If a reliable employee is a no show for work it would ring alarm bells for a lot of people. We have employment laws in dealing with no shows (note I live outside of US) and it specifically states employers must do all they can to reach the employee, which may include attempting to visit the employee’s home if possible.

    Of course we can all point to a theoretically better course of action (i.e., calling an emergency contact) but we don’t live in an ideal world where everyone takes the Most Sensible Option available.

    I can see why the employee was embarrassed and angry – but she also didn’t bother contacting her boss until after her usual starting time. Additionally, at my own workplace we’ve had cases where messages went missed until later because someone might not have their phone with them, be too busy to check voicemail/texts, etc. So we ask everyone to do their best to talk to a human when absent to avoid delayed or miscommunication. The employee was in the wrong here. And I bet if it was indeed an emergency she wouldn’t have been so outraged.

    1. PT*

      We had a regular where I worked who passed away in this fashion. He was elderly and lived alone. He used to come in fairly often but hadn’t been due to health issues. His neighbor realized they hadn’t seen him in awhile (getting mail, taking out trash, lights going on and off in the evening, etc.) and called in a wellness check, and he had unfortunately passed away.

      It’s not unreasonable.

      1. pancakes*

        I think it is unreasonable to suggest there are no differences between employers going to an employee’s home themselves a couple hours after they haven’t shown up vs. a neighbor calling the authorities to do a wellness check after someone hasn’t been seen in several days. Those are two very different scenarios!

        1. SimplytheBest*

          I agree. One has the potential to save a person in trouble whereas with the other one, you’re just looking for a body.

  56. anyoneatall*

    I think that a lot of this depends on circumstances.

    I live alone and am several hours away from my emergency contacts. I have a set schedule and if I don’t show up to work and do not contact anyone, something is likely very wrong.

    I think that the letter writers probably escalated it too quickly, but I’d would not appreciate it if no one bothered to check on me for a no-call no-show.

    1. Allonge*

      This is where I am too. Sure, if my family or an otherwise extended network was available locally, that could be the first point of call (although I just don’t see myself not answering repeated calls from my boss / workplace). As things stand, if I don’t pick up the phone for my boss, I don’t pick it up for my family either – it’s not a selection thing, it’s an actual problem. In the city where I live, every close friend is connected to my workplace, so at that point my boss might as well come / call herself. And yes, I would appreciate not being left to die if at all possible.

      For those who think a boss should never ever do this, I believe a discussion around emergency contacts and processes is a good idea (ideally the company initiates this, but if not, I think this can be brought up with managers).

  57. But There is a Me in Team*

    For perspective- there are around 600,000 cops in the US and they have around 50 million interactions with citizens per year. There’s some folks alive in Nashville today because they answered the door to NPD. So while the bad actors {rightfully} get a ton of publicity, it’s stereotypical and dangerous to assume that any interaction is going to end any given way. “Oh, I didn’t have 911 check on my diabetic [or whatever] employee because I assume all police are bad, and my employee actually ended up needing help” isn’t a valid blanket policy either. Use reason and what you know/have experienced in your area. Many departments have mental health units who are specially trained and/or respond with social workers, etc. Agreed the original OP went over the top and has lived and learned since then.

    1. Ryn*

      After what JUST happened in Minneapolis AGAIN we’re gunna do some “not all cops” stuff today? Really? People are being murdered by cops regularly in this country, and it deserves discussion when it comes up.

        1. Disco Janet*

          It it seems like what is being said here is that no matter what OP did, someone would criticize. Do nothing and your employee could be desperately ill and not get medical attention. Go in person and you’re overreacting. Call in a wellness check and you get bashed over police violence. So what WAS OP supposed to do that would have no one here criticizing their response? Seems like there isn’t an answer to that…

          1. pancakes*

            The answer is quite simple: The goal is to make lucid decisions in an emergency, not to avoid any and all criticism on the internet. To the extent that someone’s thought process revolves around trying to please everyone rather than trying to, say, minimize the chance of harm of injury, of course that’s going to feel rudderless, because it fundamentally is.

    2. DarnTheMan*

      Abraham Natanine
      Adrean Stephenson
      Atatiana Jefferson
      Barru Shantz
      Chantel Moore
      Christa Markwell
      D’Andre Campbell
      Damian Daniels
      Douglas Hatfield
      Ejaz Choudry
      Joe Louis Castillanos
      John Pacheaco Jr.
      Regis Korchinski-Paquet
      Rodney Levi
      Sheffield Matthews

    3. candy corn*

      Yup. Statistics, people! Obviously people get murdered by cops and that’s a huge problem. But how many people die from diabetic comas each year? How many of them would we have to let die to save one person killed by a cop? Calling the cops should be a last resort and it was in this situation. Smh.

  58. Jean*

    Personally, I would be beyond furious if my employer – no matter how well-meaning – showed up at my home WITH THE COPS for any reason, much less just because I was late to work. What the hell.

  59. Anonymous for this one*

    Yes, what a mess! You never know what’s the right thing do, and you never know what will happen if you do.

    My husband and I have an elderly (in her 80s) neighbor who is unpleasant, unfriendly, and un-neighborly, to put it kindly. There’s also clearly some hoarding going on in her house; you can see stuff stacked and piled in front of the windows. Anyhow, I noticed packages and mail piling up on her front stoop. Her car looked like it hadn’t moved in weeks. There’s a pandemic going on. We didn’t know if she was sick or if a pile of stuff had fallen over on her. My husband and I knocked on the front door but didn’t get a response.

    So, finally, I called Adult Protective Services and expressed my concern about her. Long story short, but between APS and the police, they determined that she’s moved herself into her basement because she’d hoarded herself out of the upper floors of the house (which is why she didn’t hear us knocking on the front door) and also that she has raccoons inside the house. County Code Enforcement also was involved, and the County evicted her from her own house until she can deal with all the building code violations, which are considerable.

    So, the net result is that I feel like I got an old lady evicted from her home during a global pandemic. That’s not what I wanted to happen.

    1. Observer*

      You probably saved her life. If she was at a point where she trapped herself in her basement with a bunch of raccoons, she probably was going to run out of access to food. If she got kicked out of the house because of code violations “considerable” probably also means “life threatening” – evicting people out of their homes is NOT a typical way that localities handle code violations.

      And, the issue of being hurt / trapped / killed by a bunch of falling stuff is not just an urban legend. It happened to someone I knew.

      1. Anonymous for this one*

        Yes, I know all this. I still feel guilty. I have a highly developed sense of guilt.

  60. Whoops(ie)*

    Rough on LW today.
    LW mentioned this in their letter: Later we realized that after my husband left the office and before he started banging on her door, she had called one of our numbers and left a message that she wasn’t coming in. This sounds like they weren’t at the office to get the call. If they had gotten a call on their cell, I would think they would have noticed as they were calling non stop! But they could have missed it too.

    It’s a tough call but several factors converged here: 1.very reliable employee no call, no shows. 2. employee has a medical condition that could very well have turned deadly. I would have turned to the emergency contact first. But not calling police because they might kill someone? They would be responding to a well check request. Not a call to respond to an armed person. Let’s try to not paint everyone with the same brush.

    It was a tiny company. You get to know your people when you only have a few employees.

    1. Ryn*

      In 2019, Atatiana Jefferson was murdered by police who were called to do a wellness check on her. Earlier this year, Linden Cameron, a CHILD with autism, was murdered by police after his parents called the cops for help while he was having a meltdown. Wellness checks get people killed in this country.

    2. A313*

      I’m not sure how calling the emergency contact would help, unless the employee had informed the emergency contact beforehand that they weren’t going to work that day. The emergency contact person would be in the same boat as the employer, left to probably repeatedly call or visit the home and get no answer. But it is good to have a policy in place that everyone understands, before it’s needed, and then the employer can hopefully feel they did what was expected of them.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        There are a few reasons. The hope would be that the EC was well chosen and might have some inkling of what was going on. They might be better positioned to check — for instance they might have a key.

        But it also provides a disconnect. Instead of her boss banging on the door, it’s going to be the contact she chose. And if that’s not a better alternative then she chose poorly.

    3. Tinker*

      The police officer went in the person’s home and caught the occupants sufficiently by surprise that they were still boning. There is a *rather broad array* of whoopsies and subsequent ouchies that can occur under those circumstances, and it’s not necessarily being pejorative about police officers — who, stipulating that they are good people, would also be harmed by accidentally killing an innocent person — to be concerned with whether our decisions contribute to putting them in such a situation unnecessarily.

    4. Lyra Silvertongue*

      If you do not believe that wellness checks can kill people, you have not been paying attention to the news for the past year. It IS a consideration for many, even if it is not for you.

    5. DarnTheMan*

      Abraham Natanine
      Adrean Stephenson
      Atatiana Jefferson
      Barru Shantz
      Chantel Moore
      Christa Markwell
      D’Andre Campbell
      Damian Daniels
      Douglas Hatfield
      Ejaz Choudry
      Joe Louis Castillanos
      John Pacheaco Jr.
      Regis Korchinski-Paquet
      Rodney Levi
      Sheffield Matthews

  61. A313*

    I worked at one place where you couldn’t just leave a message that you wouldn’t be in — you had to talk to someone (starting with trying to reach the office manager, and from there whoever else you worked for). This policy would likely have prevented this scenario.

    The stated intent was that you could tell whoever you spoke with what on your desk was urgent and answer any relevant questions. It also, I think, had the effect of making some employees think twice about taking a sick day if they weren’t really ill. I can say from my own experience, though, that being sick and sleepless in the middle of the night and then needing to set my alarm to call in to speak to someone was not ideal.

    1. Paris Geller*

      Technically, this is our policy, but it’s not very strictly enforced, which is good for me, because normally I’m the first person in the building (not scheduled, just like being early). And my boss has some health conditions that sometimes make mornings hard for her, so it’s not uncommon for her to come in until 10 or 11 on rough days. Last week I was out sick on Tuesday thanks to something I ate Monday night. I left 7 voicemails for each of my coworkers because NOBODY was answering their phones.

    2. BigGlasses*

      I worked somewhere that had this policy (specifically, you had to call HR in the morning when you were calling out, and speak to them) and I was going to say exactly what you said about it not being good that a sick employee has to schedule in a specific time to call/set an alarm, when what they need to say could be left by voicemail the night before. It also means that the employee can’t unilaterally complete this task, whether they have ‘successfully’ called out relies on *other people* answering their phones — not good for sick or otherwise troubled/occupied people.

      I remember being very frustrated one time when I had been admitted to hospital and was having to repeatedly call HR from a shared ward every few minutes to try and get ahold of someone when they weren’t answering, especially while waiting for doctors to come by on rounds so I didn’t know how long I had to make the call before being interrupted. It was especially frustrating because I had already let my direct manager know all the details over the weekend when I had been admitted, so it was completely bureaucratic and silly that I was at the mercy of HR picking up just so I could complete my required duty. I think, in general, ‘calling out’ policies should be as flexible as possible precisely because the people completing them are by definition at some level of emergency (minor or major) and don’t need the added complication of procedure, if it can be avoided.

  62. Coverage Associate*

    I was just doing video therapy in our front room when the landlady knocked. I didn’t want to interrupt therapy, wasn’t expecting her, and didn’t recognize her, so I ignored it. She gave me a dirty look as she walked away, which is when I recognized her.

    I usually open the door if I am decent, especially if my husband is home. But we live in such a good neighborhood, packages can stay on our porch for days.

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

    My read on this, given that she was subsequently (*looks back* fired? reprimanded? .. yes, fired) for behaviour related to unreliability driven by that partner is that you probably witnessed the start of the unreliability at this point… calling in ‘sick’ (or whatever) for a sex romp with partner, but the part I’m unsure of is how much that was driven by the partner, actually, in a “controlling” kind of way. e.g. don’t open the door!! etc. I wonder what else transpired in the series of instability and control (?) but I would bet good money this was around the starting point.

  64. Exhausted Trope*

    Random people banging on my door was quite common in my old home in kinda unsavory neighborhood.
    I was awakened very late at night by banging on the door which escalated to banging on the window. I was terrified. I crept to the room facing the street and peeped out. Saw police. Opened door. Turns out some kid caught out after city curfew was claiming to live with me. I have no kids.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      This happened to me recently. I am in a pretty average-to-nice neighborhood though and when there was knocking on our door at like 2am I was a little scared but I looked out the window and saw they were cop cars. They said they had a kid who said this was their house. I was so tired and confused I couldn’t really say anything except that we didn’t have kids. I don’t even know how old the kid was but I think about it kind of a lot and I hope they are okay. It wasn’t until the next day that I wondered whether they might have been trying to get away from a bad home situation…

  65. Curmudgeon*

    I never answer the door unless I am expecting someone. Ever. And if someone banged on the door like that and did not leave, I’d probably call the cops.

  66. emmelemm*

    Just to throw in a comment on the side of: I had a coworker, lived alone, no family, who didn’t show up one day. We actually had a hell of a time getting the police to do a wellness check on him because we *weren’t* family; they were just like “he probably decided to play hooky”. (He’d worked with us for 20+ years, he’d never have done that.)

    Anyway, eventually wellness check was done and he had indeed passed away.

  67. anon diabetic*

    I know this is far down, but all of the folks coming down hard on OP has been really upsetting. It has been many years since I’ve had a low that kept me from waking up, but it has happened. I live alone and almost none of the folks who I list as emergency contacts would think to be concerned if they didn’t hear from me for a few hours or days. The chances are good that my workplace would be the first to know that something was wrong and likely the only ones to know soon enough to send help. Was going themselves instead of calling her emergency contact an overreaction? Sure, but please, please, make allowances for those of us who would rather be embarrassed by a false alarm than dead.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Especially since LW pointed out in the comments that the employee had not listed an emergency contact, so there wasn’t anyone else they could reasonably have called, beyond attempting to contact emergency services. Add in that her husband had an experience where a friend passed away under similar circumstances, and it becomes significantly more understandable.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think many, if any, of us who are opposed to the way this was handled are saying it’s not understandable. I think it’s quite easy to understand why the LW behaved as they did, but the point is—or should be—that this scenario is a good lesson in why other employers should handle things differently. Not having emergency contacts for employees, for example, isn’t a situation that falls out the sky as blamelessly as weather – it’s a choice that’s made, and other small businesses (and their employees) would be better-served if employers collect this information as a matter of routine rather than trying to handle any emergencies that arise themselves.

    2. Nassan*

      I agree. This situation was “wrong” just because the employee was okay. If she wasn’t, we’d see it differently.

  68. I Need That Pen*

    Ugh this brings back an old memory of a coworker who “crashed” at work one night, refused EMS treatment on scene and was brought to their home, only to be found dead the next day. We desperately begged our coworker to go to the ER when EMS came but being of sound mind if they refused, that was that. This person was a wonderful soul, and I still miss them to this day. I cried even typing this.

    Please check your voicemails first, just in case there is a message. In today’s world most employees will call, text, or even email to say “I’m not going to be there tomorrow/today.”
    When this happened to us this was (gasp) before cell phones.- albeit just a FEW years before. Conversely, If you share health information with people who are your friends at work (some of whom including me, had known my coworker for over 20 years) that is serious and that we care about, please know we are going to care and worry. EMS had to break down their door to find them. And as we feared, they were gone.

    The best thing you can be, is wrong and embarrassed. The worst thing you can be is right and do nothing.
    This has been 25 years ago and I still remember the date, place and time.

    1. I Need That Pen*

      *The best thing you can be, is wrong and embarrassed. The worst thing you can be is right and do nothing.

      I mean this when considering getting authorities involved.
      I miss my friend.

  69. Eletha*

    I used to take heavy medication some years ago. I had an arrangement with my manager that if I was more than 30 minutes late without notifying her she had my permission to raise an alarm. It’s a sensible precaution if you live on your own. A diabetic colleague used to ring his mother every morning before work so she knew he was up and functioning.

  70. scmill*

    Over the years I had two different coworkers who lived alone and died during the night. In both instances, once the person didn’t show up for work, didn’t call in and didn’t answer the phone, we called the police and a couple of coworkers showed up at their houses.

  71. All Hail Queen Sally*

    Years ago when my (then) husband was in the Air Force and we were stationed at an overseas base, one young man never showed up for work on Monday morning. Since the military respects no boundaries, they went to his apartment and had the manager open the apartment. They found him on the floor in the shower with the (cold) water still running. Apparently he had slipped in the shower and knocked himself unconscious. They didn’t know if it had happened that morning, or as far back at the Friday before. They tried to wake him but ended up shipping him back to the states. I never heard if he survived or not, but I think about him all the time, especially if I have little slips in the shower. This is one thing that worries me as I now live alone and am older and not as graceful as I used to be.

    1. Lilyfromsydney*

      Hey Queen Sally, if you are worried mabye consider a rail in the shower or a shower chair to sit on. Another option is a watch that dials a contact if you fall – they technology is now so good they look like normal watches – not the weird old chunky ones.

  72. All Hail Queen Sally*

    I used to have a job where we had to read the Medical Examiner’s docket (a daily list of deceased people brought in to the city morgue). You would not believe how many people die alone that would have survived if someone would have been available to call for help for them.

  73. K8 the Gr8*

    I had a young colleague die of diabetic shock at my first post-college job 20 years ago, she wasn’t found for over 48 hours, and it still haunts me.

    In this case, I would much rather deal with an employee’s anger and subsequently work together to come up with a better plan in the event of a no show, than risking being able to save someone’s life.

  74. Seeker of truth and light and grilled cheese*

    I thank the universe that my brother’s brand new manager (he started the new job a week before) decided to pursue a wellness check, when my brother did not show up at work or respond to phone calls. She is the reason my brother did not die alone on the floor of his apartment. Thanks to her, he was found, brought to a hospital, and we were able to be with him as he passed.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like a terrible situation was made somewhat better by her actions.

  75. Solo in Applesauce*

    About 6 months after separation, I got a frantic call from my ex’s coworker asking if I knew where he was as he never showed up at work and wasn’t answering his phone. He has always called in if he was going to be late or out, so they were very worried. He had gone through issues with kidney stones a couple years before, so I understood the concern! At their urging, since my job was not too far from his home, I was going to run over to see if he was OK. I jump in the car, near tears with thoughts if him laying dead on the floor with the dog howling next to him…. About halfway there, I get another call from one of his friends saying to stop and turn around immediately and go back to work. My ex is fine, he just forgot to “set his alarm”. In hindsight, I understand he was in bed with a new lady and threw caution to the wind. It was shortly thereafter he and his new girlfriend were part of the “friend group”. I am forever thankful to that friend for the call to keep me from that scene!!

  76. Tinker*

    So, I want to say this particularly as a note to the folks who are boldly proclaiming that they just care too much not to maybe save your life:

    Because of a relationship with someone who said such things to describe their actions, I have some funny stories that I do rather enjoy dramatic retellings of.

    I also have traumatic flashbacks in response to an odd grab bag of triggers inclusive of “the classic Nokia ringtone”, “the iPhone incoming call screen”, and “reading a comment section about a shockingly egregious example of panic and overreaction that proves to be unexpectedly full of people saying that they just love and care and can’t help it and what if you were dead and I will gladly hurt your mere feelings because that isn’t really harm and isn’t important.”

  77. Agent Michael Scarn*

    These employers’ reaction reminds me of my own helicopter parents’ reaction to a sorta similar situation. When I was in high school, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store. My parents had me text them whenever I arrived at work, so they’d know I made it there ok. One day I forgot to text, put my phone in my locker, and went to work. About a half hour later, I spotted my worried-looking father combing the store for me, concerned that I didn’t check in. I wasn’t at my usual post, either, so he’d had to ask my manager where I was. I was mortified! I can only imagine how the employee felt to have her BOSSES show up at her home when they didn’t hear from her. Medical condition or not, that’s just insane, helicopter-parent behavior! Showing up at an employee’s house is never ok, in my opinion. Calling this woman’s emergency contact should’ve been the first (and only) step.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      My cousin had a similar part time job at the same age, and also couldn’t have her phone on her while working. One day my aunt got a call saying she hadn’t turned up. She’d set off as normal, so my aunt immediately panicked, called my uncle who was working on his farm to see if he knew where my cousin was. He hadn’t spoken to her either, so immediately came home and they were debating going out searching her route for her. My aunt called the supermarket first to see if she had turned up and was told “Oh, sorry. We got the wrong Sansa.” My cousin was on her shift as usual, was absolutely fine and didn’t even know that had happened.

      I never found out what happened to her namesake who didn’t show up. I don’t know whether it would have got as far as my relatives turning up at the supermarket if they hadn’t established that it was a mistake, but it could have been embarrassing all round had it got that far.

  78. MCMonkeybean*

    It does sound like this all escalated rather quickly, but speaking from the perspective of someone whose brother was only found dead from an overdose because a coworker went to check on him when he didn’t show up at work–I am firmly in the “better safe than sorry” camp. Sure this was embarrassing and terrible, but if your initial worries had been true that would be a whole lot worse. I think back often to a time a couple of months before my brother’s death when I went to pick him up for a dinner we were supposed to have with my mom for my birthday–he didn’t answer his door or the phone but his car was in the driveway and I mostly thought he was just flaking which was not out of character but part of me wondered whether something could be wrong… but I didn’t really know what to do so I just left. Now I have the weird conflicting knowledge that he *was* okay that time, but was *not* okay in a later similar circumstance.

    I agree with the commenters that suggest having a plan and procedures in place for this sort of situation in the future which may help at least mitigate the panicked escalation. But aside from making sure you are more prepared in the future, I don’t think there is a reason to beat yourself up for how you handled it in the past *if* this was a one-time occurrence. If you are prone to anxiety and/or jumping to the worst conclusions too quickly then that might be something to work on.

  79. MCMonkeybean*

    I think the big takeaway from the comments here is that there is no answer about the way to handle a situation like this that everyone would agree was correct. Some people think you should never check in at all while others acknowledge that for a person who lives alone, their workplace is likely to be the only place to notice they are missing for days. Some people think you should have skipped your own visit and just called the police right away while others think you should never have called the police at all.

    There is no great answer because as Alison notes it is impossible to know whether any intervention was needed until after the fact. There will be times when people intervene and everyone was fine and there is embarrassment all around. And there will be times when you do nothing and then find out later someone was dead or dying while you sat in your office wondering where they were. And as some people have shared there are times when the employer checks in and finds someone in time to save their life. I think all you can do is make whatever choice you would feel most able to live with.

    1. Claire*

      But there’s the rub – “missing for days”. This woman wasn’t. She was a few hours late calling out. A few _hours_. Sending the police to someone’s home just because they’re a few hours past their shift start is absolutely bonkers.

      I can well appreciate that there are some scenarios in which a welfare check would turn out to be a godsend, but we can’t utterly throw away people’s right to privacy in the bargain. Should an employer call the police after 24 hours? Maybe. But definitely not after 2!

  80. Mrs. Vandertramp*

    Anyone have any suggestions other than law enforcement wellness checks or *ways to work with law enforcement on those checks that has been successful*? As people have mentioned upthread, I know it’s fraught but it’s come up especially in my work with HR where the employee has known or suspected mental health issues, and we’ve frequently had the situation where the employee has not identified an emergency contact. (Currently the jurisdictions we’re in don’t have any options to request a mental health expert, as I know some jurisdictions have tried to put into place, and I would whole-heartedly support because for a relatively small company we’ve had this situation come up too often.) I struggle when advising on this all the time to figure out the best way to keep everyone safe and especially get someone the help we think they might need. And to be clear, unlike the LW, I’m talking about wellness checks after all attempts (usually over more than one day) to contact have failed. We’re also a frequent user of suggested and mandatory EAP referrals, too, so if we know someone is in trouble, we try to get them help before something happens where they go MIA.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      The best suggestion I can give is to tighten up HR processes. You say employees have not identified an emergency contact, why haven’t you followed up on that? Do you periodically review the EC information and make sure it is current? The advantage to a good EC is they are likely to have a better appreciation of the risks of a wellness checks vs the risks of not doing them. They may have ways of contacting or checking that are less invasive.

      And, ultimately, if an employee doesn’t want to provide an EC and doesn’t want you to check up on them they have an opportunity to tell you that. And, ultimately, that’s their call however unwise it may seem.

    2. Nat*

      I do not have specific suggestions but since services vary by community, I would suggest calling the non-emergency lines of your local emergency services to ask about the protocol they would recommend. You can also look up if your county has a crisis line and call that number first when something like this comes up. Very often, they may tell you your only option is a wellness check — but at least you’re getting reassurance about that from someone who is aware of the resources in your community. I am not an expert in these areas but volunteer for my county’s crisis line and we take calls like this and have professionals on site who can determine the right course of action.

  81. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m a very reliable employee (I like to think, anyway) and early on in my career my grandfather passed away. I left a message explaining and didn’t go to work – I’m pretty sure that was a Thursday or Friday. Then on Monday I called again to say I needed one more day off but I’d be back at work on Tuesday. It turns out they never received the first message and just assumed that I didn’t show up … which would be so out of character! I was honestly so confused that they didn’t think to check on me or try to call me or anything because that’s what I would have done for an otherwise reliable employee who lived on their own.
    On another occasion, we had to call an emergency contact for a c-level executive who just apparently thought it wasn’t necessary for her to be at work anymore because she didn’t have any meetings (note: she did – all day, every day). It turned out that she was confused and we later learned that she had a brain tumor.
    I don’t think that I would have gone to the extreme of pounding down the employee’s door in person but I do think a wellness check was necessary after they didn’t hear from her (or at least not until hours after she was supposed to be at work). The employee could have saved herself and everyone else a lot of trouble if she had called in before her shift. That’s not an unreasonable expectation. I’d personally write the whole thing off as a bit embarrassing and a lesson learned for next time – but I wouldn’t worry too much about it!

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Just a note to add that a few folks above have mentioned having a conversation with their employer on how to handle things like this. Don’t forget to also have a conversation with whoever you list as an emergency contact instructing them on what to do – including to contact your workplace!

  82. SEM*

    The OP said she called and left a message later in the morning- not right away like if she was planning to call out. So I think they were more justified than it seems- they didn’t not just check their messages in the morning because she didn’t call in first thing in the morning.

    That said, Allison’s other points hold (wait a few hours, call emergency contacts)

  83. Kikishua*

    One weekend there was a knock at my front door – I tend not to open the door unless I’m expecting someone so I ignored it. I later found out that it was the UK Prime Minister at that time. Still not quite over that.

  84. Liz*

    I am a reliable employee (I can count on my fingers the number of unscheduled absences I’ve had in an 8-year-career of bedside nursing; one time I wasn’t on the unit *early* and a coworker called me just in case). If I didn’t show up to work, I would expect someone to recognize that that’s unlike me, especially if I was a no/call no/show.

    It feels like people are being harsh on the letter writer. This seems like an overreaction because a middle-aged woman was NOT found unconscious on the floor of their home, when for a diabetic patient that is a very real and present risk–especially if they are insulin dependent. As the LW said too in the comments, it had been hours since the employee was due for work and they hadn’t called in. When they did return the call, it was not to the main office number or to management’s cell phone number (and I would think that the manager would leave those numbers in the voice mail??), and also after the manager had left to go check on them. Aside from staying at the apartment after calling for a wellness check, I don’t think they were terribly wrong to escalate their concerns. I know it’s dangerous to call a wellness check, too, which is why in some ways I don’t blame them for visiting the apartment (and I know the LW said that this took place years ago).

    We get to say it was an overreaction because the employee was fine. Would you worry about a reliable coworker who didn’t show up and didn’t call out, and who you knew had a brittle health condition? You don’t have to be a brittle diabetic to run the risk of falling into a diabetic coma.

    Of course, that could be me, being the nurse who recently cared for a dying patient who had fallen in their home and nobody called a wellness check until they’d not been seen for several days. Or me, the friend whose diabetic best friend, *in a house of healthcare workers*, was hours from a diabetic coma and who was only found awake because she came to my door talking gibberish.

    I don’t know. It just makes me feel bad that the comments are jumping down the letter writer’s throat. Yes, they should have left when the employee didn’t answer the door and sought out alternative ways of finding her and being sure she was okay. But I also think we can only say that BECAUSE the employee was okay.

  85. TheClaw*

    Noooo! This happened to me once – I was totally crippled with a migraine and didn’t hear the phone or the door. I would have been MORTIFIED to have a wellness check on top of that!

  86. ampersand*

    Yeah, these situations where in hindsight it’s very clearly overstepping are difficult. A few years ago I worked with someone who was reliable and didn’t show up for work or call in on a Monday. Or Tuesday. By Wednesday I was worried and texted her; she didn’t reply. My manager, meanwhile, was ready to fire her for not showing up. Grandboss ended up calling the police for a welfare check after I expressed my concerns and we still couldn’t reach her, and it turned out that coworker needed to be hospitalized. She was okay but didn’t come back to her job. I’m glad that I said something, but had we sent the police to check up on her because she’d just skipped out of work…I don’t know how that would have turned out or if I would still feel justified in going to grandboss about it.

  87. Claire*

    Absolutely ridiculous. This poor employee should have sued the employer for emotional damages.

    And if anyone struggles to see how profound a violation of boundaries and right to privacy this was, just turn it around: How would the boss feel if the employee had done this to them one day when they didn’t turn up for work? Violated and outraged, that’s how.

Comments are closed.