partner’s employer makes me quarantine whenever I have contact with another person, and more

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

1. My partner’s employer makes me quarantine whenever I have contact with another person

My partner works in a private home as a caregiver, and since the pandemic started that’s been conflicting with my own (unpaid) commitments as an activist. When the racial justice protests started, it was important to me to show up, while taking precautions such as only attending events outdoors and always wearing a mask.

Sometimes protesting has meant being closer than six feet to hostile people who weren’t wearing masks. It’s also meant occasionally riding in a car with the windows down (I can’t drive due to a disability; I’ve gotten really good at biking over the past year!). To my partner’s employers, both of those count as exposures, whether or not the person I was exposed to had a confirmed Covid case. They’ve asked that each time I’m exposed, I spend two weeks isolating in my room away from my partner. They view a negative Covid test as a not-100%-accurate snapshot, so getting tested hasn’t helped lessen the burden.

That’s meant my partner and I have spent weeks at a time without being able to hang out indoors and un-masked, or he has had to take off work for weeks at a time. I’ve been okay with that because I care a lot about the disabled person at the center of this, and I knew she and my partner as her caregiver would be towards the front of the line for vaccinations. And they managed to get them! But it turns out that only those who are paid to care for her are eligible at this time, so a family member who lives in the household was left out of this round. So even though the concern about the person he cares for getting Covid is dissipating somewhat, now others in the household are worried about my partner working in their home when he’s been exposed to me and caring for someone who they’re exposed to. They’re not high-risk themselves, but obviously no one wants to risk Covid if they can avoid it.

Based on the latest guidance from the CDC, I’ve asked whether my partner’s vaccination counts as enough of a buffer between me and the person he cares for plus their family member. In general, this whole scenario has made me wonder about how much employers can/should manage an employee’s exposure and the exposure of the people they live with, especially when your workplace is a household.

This is … a lot.

The CDC guidelines are to quarantine after close contact with someone who has Covid, not just after contact with another human. (And as you probably know, the latest CDC recommendations say a single household without high-risk people in it can visit with fully vaccinated people indoors without anyone even wearing masks.)

What if you worked at a grocery store or another job where you unavoidably came in contact with people every day? Would they tell your partner he needed to live separately from you? Or would you have to live in an isolated room whenever you were home? I suppose if you had a job like that, they wouldn’t have hired your partner in the first place. Clearly they are deeply worried about infection and see this as a way to control potential exposure (which I’m sympathetic to!) but this isn’t a reasonable requirement for employees’ household members.

They are entitled to take whatever precautions they want and only hire people who agree to comply with them … but if your partner were employed by a company rather than a household, there’s no way this level of control over an employee’s partner would fly.

Read up an update to this letter here.

2. Did my company’s social media training overstep?

I’m in the middle of our company’s annual mandatory security training and wondered what you would think of one of the videos they used. This was for the module on social media. In the video, an employee (presumably HR) pulls her coworker aside to have a chat about something she saw on his social media. It’s a photo of him apparently passed out on a park bench, captioned “Epic Bachelor Weekend” or something like that, and he happens to be wearing a shirt with the company logo. The employee apologizes, says he didn’t know the post was public, and explains he didn’t post it himself but a friend tagged him. Then the video goes on to talk about how you have to be careful not to share sensitive information on social media, it can be complicated to keep on top of privacy settings that constantly change, etc.

While I get the larger point of the training — watch out for sensitive information, assume that anything you share online could be seen by anyone even if you think it’s “private” — I was pretty taken aback by the example they used. If an employer pulled me aside to chastise me about a pretty darn innocuous photo on my personal Facebook (even if I happened to be wearing a company shirt in it), that would feel like a pretty big overreach to me.

Eh, I don’t think it’s egregious — a lot of companies wouldn’t be thrilled if a photo of a passed-out (presumably drunk?) employee wearing their company logo went viral, and once it’s posted online you kind of lose control of what happens to it.

A simpler message to take away might be “don’t wear company shirts on epic bachelor weekends.”

3. Great new hire has terrible internet

I’ve just hired a new direct report who is absolutely wonderful. He’s organized, driven, talented and self-starting. I feel like I’ve won the jackpot — with a catch. His internet is really REALLY bad. It’s almost impossible to have him share his screen with me (or vice versa) or to carry on a conversation without a very noticeable lag. Because of this, he will often call into virtual meetings from his personal phone.

I can’t pretend to know anything about his personal circumstances. For all I know, he could be working through student debt and I would hate to bring up something that might be uncomfortable for him. I have mentioned in passing using alternate technology to try to improve his internet speed, but he would need to purchase this out-of-pocket and he hasn’t done so yet (it’s been a couple of months). What is the safest way to approach this?

Can you get your company to pay for upgrading his internet? Even if they don’t typically pay for people’s home internet, there’s an argument for doing it here because his internet service presumably has been sufficient (to him) for his personal needs, but needs to be upgraded for work needs. That’s a business expense your company should reasonably cover (especially if working from home wasn’t his particular request). Ideally you’d say, “Can you look into options A and B for upgrading your internet and let me know the cost? Depending on what you find out, we might be able to cover it.” (If you’re worried about covering his upgraded service and no one else’s: If it comes up, you’d explain that he had internet that worked fine for him personally, but didn’t meet the company’s needs.)

There are companies that require remote employees to have workable internet that they purchase on their own, but that’s usually in situations where the employee is choosing to be remote / it’s a perk. If your employee is working from home right now because of the pandemic, it would move it out of perk realm and into “employers need to pay for the cost of doing business” territory.

But if that’s simply not an option, just be direct: “We really need you to have a stronger internet connection for the work we do. This week, can you look into options like A and B or see if there’s another way to make that happen?” (Keep in mind, though, that the bad speed could be a function of where he lives. If that’s the case, you’re stuck with the workarounds he’s been using.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. How to talk about a personal crisis at work

My partner is living with an illness. During the pandemic, it’s gotten increasingly worse. He is getting help, and is about to start an intensive program that will last a month. I work from home, and our school-age children are home most of the time. We don’t have family or friends who are in a position to provide consistent childcare or other help.

This is an intense situation and I want to be open with my manager and my team about the challenges I’m going through so that we can adjust as needed, but I don’t know exactly what to share and with whom—or what accommodations to ask for. I don’t have a consistent need (right now at least) for time off from work or for reduced responsibilities but I definitely am not working at my usual level.

Work is also the only part of my life that feels “normal” right now. I like my job, and I want to do well at it, though I find it harder to focus when these personal challenges arise. What is the best way to keep people informed without over-sharing, and how do I prioritize when everything—personal, parental, and professional—feels urgent all of the time?

One option is to say, “Luke is dealing with a health issue right now that’s causing us a lot of worry and strain, although he has a treatment plan we’re hopeful about. There’s nothing specific I need to do differently right now, but I wanted to mention it as context in case I seem off.” You don’t need to give details beyond that unless you want to.

It’s hard to speak to how to prioritize without knowing more details about the competing demands, but in general: Prioritize your family and yourself when you’re going through something like this! It’s easier for your boss to help when there are specific things you want to ask for, so I’d try to figure out what you might want to request — but once you do, know that decent managers make accommodations for things like this all the time. And if you do decide you need time off or a reduced workload, that would be incredibly reasonable.

5. What should I say in response to a raise?

After performance reviews, the company I work for sets a meeting to go over compensation (raise and bonus) for the year and the projected changes for next year. The conversations are usually short, as it consists only of the manager reading the document with the numbers out to the employee. For the life of me, I never know how to be “normal” in these meetings. What face am I supposed to make? Am I supposed to say thank you after they read out my bonus or raise? Should I comment on my proposed compensation for next year? The company is huge, so negotiation is typically not an option — it all comes down to job classification and calculations made from company performance and individual performance, so it feels like there is no point in my saying anything regardless of whether I’m pleased or disappointed.

If you’re neutral to pleased about the number, a good default response is, “Thank you, I appreciate it.” Your face can be neutral, interested, or mildly pleased … no need to beam wildly or anything like that (unless you want to beam wildly, in which case go for it).

If you think you should have earned more, it should be okay to say, “I was hoping for something closer to $X, because of _____” (fill in with something about your work this past year). Even if there’s no room for negotiation and zero chance the number will change, there can be value in letting your boss know you think your work is worth more. You could also ask what you’d need to do to increase you performance rating for next year (unless you already had a separate performance review conversation). It also could make sense to talk to your boss about your performance before these decisions are made; there’s probably a window of time a few months before these meetings happen when you have a chance to affect where the number ends up.

{ 686 comments… read them below }

  1. Cobol*

    Letter Writer #3 does your employee need to be able to do things like share screens? Obviously we all need to do sometimes, but is it a necessity of their job? If not, I would consider this a temporary thing.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I would say that the ability to have synchronous discussions is a pretty basic requirement of a lot of remote work, even if it’s not used constantly. It would be reasonable work around problems for short term issues, but not as a permanent solution.

      1. Chas*

        LW mentions that the report is using a phone to call into the meeting, so they’re presumably present at these synchronized meetings, just not on camera. Unless calling in on the phone causes some delay (which LW didn’t mention at all) I don’t see why it would be an issue if all the report had to do was talk to people. (Of course, if he needs to present work too, then the better internet would be needed)

        1. Natalie*

          I feel like most people attend various types of meetings. Calling in my phone to a big staff meeting is a perfectly fine workaround, but for the kinds of conversations that would normally just be a quick 1-1 chat, sharing a screen is pretty routine.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Pre WFH, phone calls for a quick chat were common where I work, and we didn’t share screens. I don’t understand why everyone has forgotten how to use phones for work in the past year. (Yes, screen sharing is faster, but you can use your words to walk through something together.)

            And his internet problems might be based on location. We have a lot of staff in rural areas who just can’t get really good internet.

            1. David*

              It’s not reasonable to rely on words to replace visuals in many fields.

              For instance, going through a set of CAD drawings together remotely is basically not possible without sharing screens. Even having the same drawings printed out requires me to verbally describe which part of which sheet I’m talking about as opposed to pointing.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                Yep, I do a lot of the same. We’ve actually started to prefer these virtual meetings because it means I don’t need to print out 7 sets of architectural drawings/sketches (even for a few pages, I still usually have to do one set for each person so they can make notes). It’s saved a LOT of 11×17 paper this year!

              2. silverpie*

                That makes sense for complex documents. In my old field of accounting, the document would be a spreadsheet, so we could email a copy to the client per-call and step through by calling out tab and cell names. The one tricky part was making sure we were on the same version, which I did by changing the tab colors each time (“orange tabs? no, that’s the last one. You want the one with the pink tabs.”)

            2. Cat Tree*

              Holding a phone for long periods is an ergonomic risk, and some people don’t want to use their personal phones for business use.

              Also, I generally assume that screen sharing includes audio through the computer. I can’t imagine trying to explain to someone how to navigate through a tool with only audio and no visual.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                I’m not saying screen sharing isn’t great for a lot of things, but it’s definitely not completely necessary for all meetings, even though people now act as if it were. And if he’s calling in to meetings regularly, his work should pay for his cell phone & a decent headset/ ear buds to use with it.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  And are available in a variety of price points, styles, and connection methods. I use the base headphones that came with my phone for most calls so I can set the phone down, but some of my team has headphones (cans, iPods, non-Apple earbuds) that connect via bluetooth.

                  There are also connection adapters. My phone still has a standard headphone jack, but my spouse’s requires a 3mm to lightning adapter.

                2. Cat Tree*

                  The comments won’t nest any further, but it would be silly to invest the effort into getting a separate headset to use with my cell phone just so I can have long, tedious phone calls without screen sharing, when a screen share with computer audio is much better and faster. This is a really weird hill to die on to insist that people these days are wrong for not using the inferior method of phone calls.

                3. Autistic AF*

                  Computer audio is better for most of us, but not for OP. I see people suggesting the phone as an option, and $60 on headphones seems like a pretty easy sell compared to better internet for OP’s report. No one’s trying to force you to use your phone here!

                4. Liz*

                  And aren’t always possible for people using a landline. Yes, we still exist. For some of us, geographical terrain/nearby radio stations/rural areas means that cell reception ranges from non-existent to intermittent. Landlines are the way to go.

            3. Natalie*

              I’m talking about face to face chats, where I and a colleague would be *looking at the same screen* in the office while we talked through something. That’s what video conferencing is generally replacing, the ability to be in the same room with someone, looking at the same thing.

              But sure, next time I’ll try reading all he cell references and formulas out loud, since screen sharing is so unnecessary.

              1. phones and tones*

                Wow this level of snark seems unnecessary for a comment suggesting making a phone call. Obviously not every meeting will work on a voice call, but OP didn’t say what the purpose of the 1-on-1s were (looking at images or just talking about non-visual things). Someone was just making a suggestion, which is why people write into the site. You don’t need to be mean in response to totally reasonable suggestions.

                1. Yorick*

                  OP was talking about sharing screens, and while they might not need to do that OFTEN, it is apparently something they do need to do.

            4. Offline*

              This was my thought too. I live in a very rural area and I could spend my life savings and still wouldn’t be able to get good internet. Phone reception is also bad in my area so things like dialing in from my phone, using a hotspot, etc. didn’t work. I ultimately ended up having to leave my job over it because the things that were required to do my job remotely once the pandemic happened just weren’t available to me. I was missing really important meetings because the connection wasn’t strong enough to work on zoom, things weren’t being submitted on time because I would have lengths of time where I couldn’t get on email. It was a disaster, but short of moving I couldn’t change it.

            5. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “I don’t understand why everyone has forgotten how to use phones for work in the past year. ”

              I don’t have a headset on my phone. Plus I’m working from home and I don’t have a work phone at home. Chat via MS Teams plus video calls in Teams or Zoom (where people often turn off video) is way better than phones for me.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. We’re all working from home this past year and have hired interns as well as a permanent staff member. A big part of our training and coaching is sharing screens. It would be really difficult to onboard and continue to train people if we couldn’t share screens. Even in our everyday work we have a need for screen sharing, though obviously not as often as when we train someone.

    2. Xenia*

      It might not be just the screen sharing. Several of the applications I use on a daily basis require serious bandwidth; it could just be a function of needing internet to do the job itself.

      1. Self Employed*

        I upgraded my internet from slow DSL to fiber yet still had problems. Turned out I needed to connect my computer to the “gateway” box with an Ethernet cable because the WiFi channels were overcrowded in my building/neighborhood.

        Could IT at least send the employee a long enough Ethernet cable to connect their laptop/desktop to the internet box to see if that helps?

        1. Kal*

          We have similar issues with the wifi in some parts of our house (unfortunately including the room that would make the best office). My partner has the extra trouble of their computer just not being able to use wifi at very high speeds even when its in a place in the house with a strong connection – that specific computer just has issues for some reason we can’t figure out. It took us 5 months just to fully figure out it was specifically the computer’s fault after trying all sorts of fixes.

          Unfortunately the cause for bad internet can be so many things that it can take ages to figure out the problem if you’re not already an expert and then can be costly once you do figure it out. And that’s if you’re lucky and the problem isn’t just “lives in an area with bad internet” which is completely out of your power to fix.

    3. Allonge*

      At least in the training period, there is usually a high need to be able to share screens (and see them when they are shared) for any job that can be done remotely. There are also plenty of functions in VC systems that you cannot use when you join by phone.

      Most likely, if this were not a problem, LW would not have written in about it.

      I really hope that the absolute necessity to WFH will go away fairly soon for a lot of people. In the meanwhile though, addressing the issue is better than stewing about it.

    4. John Smith*

      I’m sure there are many ways around issues like this, and I’m finding employers are insisting on things (video calls etc) just because they can. My coworkers and I have been able to work from home for some years and never once has the need for screen sharing or video calls been needed until this pandemic. Now all of a sudden I’m getting calls from managers who insist on the camera being activated just so they can ask for something that could easily (and more appropriately) be requested by email or a message. Madness.

      1. Venus*


        I worked with people around the world for years, and we would call into a teleconference to discuss slides shared ahead of time. It worked well.

        I live in the middle of a big city that has a strong tech industry, but my neighborhood was designed for residential use so I often have trouble with video and lagging during the 9-5 workday when my neighbors must be doing the same. The problem disappears when I do a late work call or personal one with friends. I gave up on video during the day, and my workplace shares slides and files ahead of time that I prefer to the shared screen. I’m a bit surprised as I expect many of us are streaming shows and movies after hours.

        I do have one meeting where a shared screen shows dynamic information, but thankfully for me it is late in the day. If someone had bandwidth problems then I would make it work.

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Yes! I was wondering why no one suggested pre-loading the files.

          Work files should be on a company drive, anyway, not on individuals’ computers. What’s the saying, “There are two basic types of hard drives: those that have failed and those that are going to fail”? So anyone authorized to view the file can pull it up from the network; it doesn’t *have* to be this employee sharing it from their screen.

          I agree that there are circumstances, such as showing a screen with live data from within an application, where active sharing is really needed, but it often is not.

          1. LW3*

            This is true, but also sometimes my team will want to share an email with me or to help them craft a difficult message that it’s generally easier to do with a shared screen… and it also saves my inbox from getting more emails since I receive about 300 of those a day.

            1. Caroline*

              Something like google docs would probably work well for that – you can both be in the same file and see edits in real-time, but it’s minimal bandwidth. Plus, you can both be typing in different parts of the document at the same time.

              We do this a lot, using the Google doc as scratch paper rather than saving things there, which decreases any confidentiality concerns.

              I’m using a free account, not their enterprise offering. Office365 does the same thing, and I imagine your firm has one of them

              1. Caroline*

                Related: for those needing flowcharts, we use LucidChart the same way. Although for that, we do have a company account and save and share things.

      2. Infrequent_Commenter*

        I agree with not needing video, but screen sharing is a huge boost/necessity in my job too.

        Screen sharing is relatively new, so if you had a remote job already that didn’t require it, then it makes sense that you wouldn’t notice. But my job (engineering management) involves a lot of meetings with information sharing and collaboration aside from meetings. Voice-only is not enough. Over the past 10 years, my clients’ software like MS Teams has shifted a lot of in-person meetings online. My company just got similar software 2 months before the pandemic and we universally agree it was a savior.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        The director of our division just came out with direction that anyone who can turn on their camera during a meeting should. I find it very distracting & extra draining, since I now feel like I have to concentrate on sitting very still & making sure my expressions are appropriate. In a true F2F meeting, nobody’s looking at you the whole time unless your presenting. Now I feel like I’m on display in the zoo.

      4. ThatGirl*

        Video is a different beast from screen sharing. I agree that having your camera constantly on is annoying and usually unnecessary, and I leave mine off whenever possible. But screen sharing is super helpful when you need to be sure you’re referencing the same thing, and my team uses it a lot.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          This. We are back in the office and my desktop doesn’t even have a camera, but we do a bunch of calls with Teams so we can all view a document.

    5. Snow Globe*

      I attend a lot of meetings where the presenters share screens. You can call in to the meetings, but you would miss a lot.

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        It’s a pain, but if internet skimpiness is a known problem for someone, it’s usually possible to work around. Send me the powerpoint or spreadsheet ahead of time and I’ll pull it up ahead of time… We did troubleshooting, back in the day without being able to see each others screens… “on the menu bar you should see…” I could probably still walk you thru formatting and printing a document on wp 5.1 without seeing your screen. But that was easier before everyone could tweek every part of the screen. If I’m presenting, it’s much easier to go into the office where I have decent Internet, but then I’m trying to present masked… sigh the tradeoffs of pandemic meetings.

        1. Yorick*

          Sharing screens is not always about showing a powerpoint. There are some fields and jobs where you need to see what somebody else is doing on their computers in real time.

    6. Amy*

      It’s necessary in my job. Remote is replacing in-person customers interactions where we would have gone through docs, demos and interactive tools live.

      It’s very difficult and frustrating without screen-sharing.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Although I have high speed internet, with so many people using Zoom, etc., the picture gets really muddy/freezes and losing audio is pretty normal also. Rural America.

      OP, there are websites where you can check bandwidth and so on. I’d suggest having the employee check their end of the story before you go too far on this. I am paying $74 per month for a connection that is not super reliable for in-person meetings.
      In my town, the cable company adds ten more miles of wire each year. Using this method, our town will never have full internet coverage in my lifetime. It’s only been in the past few years that our library has gotten any level of reliable internet. People in town used to laugh at the service the library got.

      My cautionary tale here is that telling him to throw money at the problem may not do anything but cause him to be more frustrated with a frustrating situation.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        One other issue, hinted at at the end of Alison’s response, is that a better option simply may not exist where the employee lives. If the employee lives outside the reach of the types of Internet service that would be sufficient to the task, the employee may be stuck with the poor connection. (I know of at least one person who is stuck with satellite internet for exactly this reason; they aren’t happy about it, but it’s the best they can get.)

        1. Elizabeth*

          I already have the very best and most expensive option available in my area, but I’m WFH, my son is in online high school, and my husband is job searching. We all have to have video and screen sharing, and my ERP systems are really bandwidth intense. It’s kinda brutal most of the time, and even though I’d find a way to afford it, there are no better options left.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Yep, this perfectly describes where I grew up (where my parents still live). It’s just far enough out of town that the options aren’t great, and even the best option is a little slow in the evenings around 7pm when all the neighbors are also home and streaming movies. I can’t imagine having that type of connection, a LOT of people home during the day that didn’t used to be, AND having to rely on it to be able to work well from home. My mother resorted to using a hot spot from her phone when she was WFH this year.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Sounds a lot like where my spouse grew up. They got their first high-speed internet ever last week after years of expensive and slow mifi service and, before that, terrible dial-up over old, attenuated phone lines.

        3. PT*

          One of my apartments, in Boston, smack between three major universities, had a single internet provider to the building. Comcast. And Comcast had wired our building so that it had one drop that was then subdivided for each of the 30 apartments. In a new building, each apartment would have its own drop, so what this effectively meant was that 30 apartments were sharing 1 apartment’s internet connection.

          Our internet was nearly unusable almost the entire time I lived there. I had to do all of my financial transactions (pay bills, order things) at work because the connection would time out and I couldn’t ever tell if the transaction went through or if it failed. If I wanted to read a news article I’d have to queue up two or three of them, walk away, and go do something else for ten minutes. This was when smartphones were new, and mobile sites and apps worked fine, but regular websites? Not going to happen.

          And we had no other option for internet provider. The building was exclusive to Comcast.

          1. A*

            Yup! I had the same experience in Boston. And now I’m in Western MA and… it’s the same deal. Comcast or satellite internet are literally the only options. And I’m lucky I’m in one of the few areas Comcast even services (never thought I’d say that) – the vast majority of my colleagues only have the option of satellite and pay OBSCENE prices for shoddy connections.

            Wth MA?!

        4. MAC*

          Exactly. There is no amount of money I could spend that would give me good internet, none of the companies that serve my city have added the necessary fiber optics in my neighborhood. 3 MBPS is the max, it’s beyond ridiculous.

          I worked from home for 4 months last year with a LOT of workarounds and frustration, then opted to return to the office in July (small staff, huge building, closed to the public). More recently I canceled my internet entirely and upgraded my cell phone data plan so I can use an iPad hotspot for my personal internet needs, but it wouldn’t be enough for work.

        5. Here we go again*

          I have satellite internet. I like it better than charter. I despise charters customer service. They had me wait all day for two days for a rural internet connection just to have them visit a previous address of mine (after I made them repeat my new address 3 times) then about 8 years later during last summer I needed internet I gave them a second shot the tech came out at 8:30 at night too late when you have a two year old and told me I couldn’t get internet installed that day. They had to dig up my gravel driveway to burry the cable. Then the tech forgot to have me sign paperwork and has to come back and wake my son up. Charter is the worst internet provider.

      2. WorkNowPaintLater*

        Same on the Rural America – we live 3 miles outside city limits, which puts us on the other side of the planet as far as the cable company is concerned. We are fortunate enough to have good wireless internet available – but that can be very dependent on weather (wind interference mainly). Our cell service can at times be very sketchy as well depending on where I stand in the house – which could possibly be the LW’s new employee’s issue on calls.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I run events on Zoom some of which have had over 100 people from around the world. When bandwidth is slow we ask everyone not key speakers to shut off video. It’s worth making that a normal thing: – video on when speaking and/or for introductions, but no shame to have it off otherwise – and encourage it to be off when bandwidth is a problem. Also encourage everyone to have an account with a headshot for whatever service is being used, so we see a bunch of faces.

    8. Engineer*

      My job would be very difficult to do remotely if I couldn’t share screens. Most meetings or conversations include giving presentations or sharing data files. New people often have quite a few training activities

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          True, but depending on the complexity of what’s being presented or reviewed it’s *much* easier if you’re seeing someone’s screen. That’s especially true for someone who was just hired.

        2. Amy*

          In my role, we’re often presenting live off websites to clients. It’s significantly less effective to do it from static screen shots or Powerpoints. Also that’s simply not what clients want and expect. They want to see live functionality. Powerpoints and static docs feel dated.

        3. Cat Tree*

          The idea of trying to explain a process flow diagram without screen sharing is a nightmare, even if we’re both looking at the same document individually.

        4. Infrequent_Commenter*

          Yeah, 5 years ago we did that and it went like this:
          Ok, does everyone not in the room have the drawings open?
          I don’t, did you send them?
          Yes, they’re attached to the meeting invite.
          Oh, I see them.
          Great, so we’re on drawing E1.
          What PDF page is that?
          Page 6?
          My PDF only goes up to page 4…?
          That’s the plumbing PDF, we’re looing at the electrical.
          Oh, got it now.
          [person in room] Can we move that light fixture here? [sketches on drawing]
          [person on phone] Wait, which one? Where do you want to move it?
          [people in room roll their eyes]

          The advent of screen sharing 5+ years ago was a game changer for meeting efficiency. It literally ensures everyone is on the same page, with zero effort. And it reduces/eliminates the need for the collaboration to be in person. We were already moving that direction before the pandemic — audio conferencing has been around for decades, and it was not productive enough to eliminate in-person meetings of that type. It was really only a flawed fallback that we used when we didn’t have a choice.

        5. Anne Elliot*

          One task of my job involves collaborative review of legal documents, and it is much, much easier to highlight text in yellow on a shared screen and say “should this be ‘shall’ or ‘may’?” rather than have to say “On page six, paragraph 3, line 4 . . . .” To be honest, the people who call in to these meetings with hard documents in front of them and no way to see the screen — I doubt very much that they are keeping up.

          1. Self Employed*

            I am agitating for our City Council to do this for ordinances under discussion. Even when we met in person, they all shared screens but the shared screen wasn’t shown on the monitors over the dais, so it was really hard to keep track of amendments.

        6. Observer*

          Presentations and files can be shared ahead of time :)

          It really depends on what you are doing. Been there, done that.

        7. Casper Lives*

          It wouldn’t help in my job. I don’t understand why some commentators here are determined to say that screen-sharing isn’t necessary. In some jobs it is.

          1. A*

            Of course – but it’s no different than the comments saying it IS necessary. OP didn’t clarify how frequent that is needed and ultimately every job is different. Some will require it often without any viable work arounds (i.e. sharing screens to look at CADs etc.), and some won’t. Regardless of which of those each individual has experienced, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s only speak to their experience and both scenarios are equally likely without additional clarification.

            Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t see any comments saying screen sharing is never needed for any job.

      1. Ashley*

        If there is good cell service but poor internet a jet oak provided by the company might help. If you already have a business cell phone account with many numbers the added cost can be pretty minimal.

        1. Chinook*

          But only if it is available. Even in cities there can be dead zones that have not been upgraded to high speed. Or apartment buildings that share the same connection, which slows it down. Or the employee is on wifi because his router is in a closet and his house isn’t wired for CAT5.

          All of these are reasons I had adult remote students who had high-speed paid for by their rehab program have connection issues. For us teachers, it was highly recommended that our computer be plugged into the router and not use wifi and it made an immediate difference in my connection (my house is a new enough build to have CAT5 connections wherever there were landline and cable connections).

          If there is no highspeed, the alternative may only be working off a mobile data plan, which is the only alternative in parts of Canada still stuck on dial up.

          1. Self Employed*

            Back before WiFi, my townhouse wasn’t wired for CAT5; I got a lot of cable and a cable stapler so I could run it down the stairwell and across the ceiling to the living room computer.

    9. Nanani*

      Yeah, consider carefully what you NEED vs what you’re used to. Would emailing/uploading screenshots be enough? Would text or audio-only be enough?

      And yeah, the company can pay for the internet upgrades if it truly is necessary to have those things.

      1. Aquawoman*

        This makes it sound like paying for better internet is some sort of drastic last resort. If you’re looking at a situation where people are screen sharing but one person makes it necessary for them to say which page and which box and which line they’re on for every sentence, that seems to me be more of a need than the employee’s need to not have fast internet. Obviously, it’s hampering the way they operate or the LW wouldn’t have written in.

        1. Kitry*

          People aren’t saying it’s a drastic last resort, they are saying it might not be an option at all. There are huge swathes of this country where high-speed Internet simply isn’t available at any price. My parents live 2 hours outside of Washington DC and are limited to slow satellite Internet with pretty draconian data caps. A mobile hotspot isn’t an option for them as there is no cell service in the area at all.

  2. Aggretsuko*

    I’m going to take a wild guess that maybe the employee with bad Internet has a home where he might not be able to get good internet. For example, everyone I know who lives up in the mountains/country has either terrible Internet, really expensive terrible Internet (like to the point where streaming video isn’t an option), or just plain no Internet at home, and there isn’t much they can do about it due to the infrastructure of the country/mountains. I don’t know if saying “pay for satellite dish” or whatever is viable, either for cost or just whether or not it’s doable.

    Anyway, I’m saying this more because “please buy better Internet” may not be an option, but depends on situation, obviously. I’m not sure if that’s a thing one can ask for, I guess.

    On a related note, here’s a story about a guy who paid $10k to put an add in the WSJ to complain about his bad Internet, and that got it fixed:

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      I’m out in the country and people are generally pretty surprised at how slow my internet is. I’d gladly pay for faster internet, believe me but it’s just not available. I do have fast enough to stream and do zoom calls with little issue at least.

      1. EchoGirl*

        Yep. My grandparents, who also live out in the country (technically their original arrangement was splitting time between a country house and a city apartment, but they’ve been sticking to the country house since the pandemic broke), were literally going to the library and sitting in the parking lot to access Wi-Fi. They could afford to pay for better internet but it just doesn’t exist. Allegedly they’re supposed to be getting it this spring, but I don’t know to what extent that’s actually proceeding as planned.

    2. Not playing your game anymore*

      Even Sat. Internet isn’t really great internet. We have Sat and DSL both. DSL is flaky and slow except when it’s down completely and Sat is slightly less flaky (unless it snows or rains hard) and slightly less slow but metered and obscenely expensive even if you don’t exceed your monthly cap and not powerful enough to have video in a zoom session unless only one person is using it and even then you’ll have a herky jerky connection at times… You can view someones shared screen, but trying to share your own screen is not great. Ask me how I know this? We have two people trying to work from home. Who knew that when we moved less then a mile we’d go from great broadband Internet to the Dark Ages? It’s not that I wouldn’t like better internet, but it’s just not available here. It wasn’t an issue before March 11 2020.

    3. Sue*

      Does OP even know for certain where the employee lives, that they are local? People tend to know the quality/availability of Wifi in nearby areas but if new employee is phoning in from the netherreaches, it may be harder to solve.

    4. Amy*

      I’m in a rural area and was having signal issues last year. My company got me a booster and it definitely helped.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      In my area the cable company has already informed people that some spots will never, ever have internet because there is no money in it for the company. We might as well talk to a wall.

      1. nona*

        This is basically my parents. There is high speed internet a mile away, but because they are out in farmland, there’s no incentive to run the necessary wire for DSL or Cable. They were operating on a hotspot associated with their cell plan (with a set amount of usage), until a faster wireless tower went up near-by, so they can get a faster (but on the low end for streaming video, for example) wireless signal (unlimited usage). They’re both retired, so it serves their needs.

        1. not owen wilson*

          Similar story to my parents, but instead of a mile away it’s literally across the street. Because of how the internet companies do zoning for their area, the people directly across from them can get high speed internet while my parents only have the choice of dial up (dial up!! in 2021!!!) or satellite internet. The satellite internet is mediocre at best, but neither of my parents can work from home so it’s functional enough for them. It’s absolutely wild how disenfranchised rural communities are when it comes to internet and cell phone service.

    6. Poster #3*

      We are both located in a major Canadian metropolitan area, so I know there are better options… they might just not have the financial capability of covering the cost of better internet.

      1. Natalie*

        Would something like a cell plan he could tether to be an option? Those can be kind of expensive but perhaps he could expense it for the few months he would need it.

        Another thing to consider, if your org still has a physical office and if it’s not being used or minimally used, is if he would prefer to go into work and use the work internet. I am going into our office a couple of times a week for specific tasks but I plan certain things for that time since our work network is much faster than my home network.

        1. LW3*

          Good point! Since we’re government they are keeping most, if not all, employees remote until it is safe to return to work. I’ll check if this might be an option though!

          1. Natalie*

            I’m in healthcare and we are doing the same, but if his internet truly is that bad this sounds like a situation that “when possible” was made for.

          2. Audiophile*

            God forbid you actually have to use audio-only calls, instead of video calls. People are sick and tired of the visual preening that goes on during video calls. There is a good reason the Supreme Court refuses to video record its sessions.

          3. Sandman*

            This is what my husband’s company has done. Almost everyone is working remotely, but he has one person on his team who goes in specifically because decent internet is just not available where he lives. It has to be approved on a person-by-person basis, but it’s pretty low risk since almost no-one is there.

      2. Hamish*

        I don’t know how much this is true in Canada, but in the USA, both living in the same major metro area wouldn’t necessarily mean you both have access to the same good internet. I live in Cleveland, and when I moved to my new neighborhood (which happens to be mostly poor and black, go figure) suddenly I was on internet speed comparable to dial-up. I had no idea that was a thing until I moved to this neighborhood.

        1. LW3*

          It’s not as big of an issue here, to be honest. Internet is available widely across major cities evenly, but maybe the outskirts of town or smaller cities would have less reliable access. The Ontario government has been investing in equal internet access for smaller rural towns as well.

          1. Dahlia*

            It is an issue in more rural places that aren’t Ontario. The reservation near me had dial-up ONLY until 2017.

      3. Elizabeth*

        I wouldn’t make that assumption either. I’m 6 minutes away from the Calgary airport, and my internet is not awesome but is still stupid expensive. When I have to be on a video call, screen sharing our erp system, and my son is in online class (they also have to have screen sharing and video), it’s almost untenable. And there’s literally no better option, we’re topped out for everything until our neighbourhood gets infrastructure upgrades.

        1. LunaLena*

          I was thinking something like that myself – maybe he has roommates or family who live in the same house who are using the Internet for other things, like gaming, streaming, or their own online classes or work from home. We can always tell if my boss’s husband playing online games or watching Netflix because suddenly her video will suddenly start lagging or the audio cuts out.

      4. Chinook*

        Then it may be a wifi issue. I ended up fixing my internet lag by connecting to the router. If his home isn’t wired for it, he may need his router moved to a place where he can connect to it. That may cost money and I think it should be a company expense because he wouldn’t need to do this if the job was not remote. And, unless he is a contractor, tjis will not be covered by the $2 a day work from home tax credit that is temporarily being offered.

      5. DarnTheMan*

        As someone who lives in a major Canadian city, it can really depend on a number of factors; for example half my building has Fibe internet from Bell, but because I’m located at the front of the building (and the Fibe box is at the back), for me to get it, it would entail drilling through a number of common walls to access my unit so I’ve made do with a different type of hookup. Similarly some of my friends have older homes/apartments where even if they have a good internet package, the make/model of their home can somehow deaden the signal and make their connections very spotty.

        1. LW3*

          Yes, the dreaded Faraday cage for the older units! I’ll be offering them something for free (that I have on hand) that should help… Powerline adapters that run the internet through the electrical wiring of your home, check it out on Amazon! :)

      6. Shan*

        My last apartment was an old building right in the middle of downtown Calgary, and both internet and cable were TERRIBLE. I’m pretty sure I had technicians out over a dozen times during the two years lived there. And my wifi was basically non-existent – I don’t know what was in the walls, but I might as well have been in a bunker. It would have been a real struggle to WFH there.

      7. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

        LOL I am in a major US city; my board treasurer lives in the same city, in a much tonier neighborhood, and his internet is AWFUL because of something having to do with his building. He has all sorts of trouble with Zoom, and ends up dialing in to all meetings. In this case, money is no issue, availability of carriers is no issue, topography is no issue; crappy internet can be inflicted on the most unlikely of victims. Sure, definitely have the conversation with your employee, but framed as “I am so thrilled to have you on staff! How can we help you function better as a member of this team, with better wifi access?” And accept that the answer might possibly be that you can’t.

      8. K.P.D.*

        As another example, I live in a large condo building where I rent a unit from the unit’s owner. The condo HOA fees cover cable and internet on really crappy old wiring and under a building-wide exclusive contract. Satellite is prohibited. I lose internet once or twice a day and as far as I can tell there’s nothing I can do about it other than moving. I’m grateful the speeds are decent when the internet is up. As a renter I have no voice to the HOA and my unit’s owner does not feel that losing internet once or twice a day is a big deal. Urban living does not guarantee that money can get you good internet in all living situations.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, this can be weird. I live in a very dense suburb, but my condo complex is just a random cell service dead zone. It’s really strange because there are tons of people here and if I go a few miles in any direction it’s fine. When I first moved, I contacted my carrier and they admitted it’s a dead zone. They said they wouldn’t fix it but would let me out of my contract with no penalties. But since they all share towers, I’m unlikely to get better service from anyone else.

      I rarely use actual cell service anymore so it’s not a huge issue. The rare times I talk on the phone I just have to stand in a specific spot. Bad internet would probably be enough to make me move though.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Yes this def can vary, even apartment to apartment. I once lived in a row of townhouses. We were smack in the middle. Literally everyone around could have this nice, new internet service. But when we called to switch, the company would have to run a special line for us and decided it wasn’t worth it. We got stuck with a mediocre expensive internet.

        It could even be this person has decent internet but the only spot in their home doesn’t get a great signal.

      2. LW3*

        I think he’s already been trying his cell phone internet as a hotspot to connect if his internet goes down, it’s still spotty. Microsoft Teams uses quite a bit of bandwidth.

        1. Grits McGee*

          In the past year, I’ve done multi-person virtual meetings with Teams, Google Meets, Duo, Zoom, Skype, Webex, Adobe Connect… for whatever reason, Teams always/i> causes issues and I get booted off my wifi connection if I try to use my video.

        2. Two Dog Night*

          Teams is the worst. I have no problem with RingCentral, Zoom, or GoToMeeting, but I always have issues in Teams meetings… and I have really good internet.

        3. Mockingjay*

          The day the company added Teams to our Microsoft lineup (MS motto: make users pay many dollars for bloated multi-products with features they will never, ever use), the IT admin updating my laptop looked at me and said: “Teams is a bandwidth hog. Keep it off unless you absolutely have to use it. You’ve got an older laptop and it WILL slow it down.”

          She was correct.

        4. bork*

          I’m in a similar situation to your employee (rural, satellite Internet) and here’s what has been helpful for me:
          * cell booster (somewhat pricey, works great however)
          *use cell as hotspot when needed, the booster helps this work better
          * dial in to voice aspect of calls on my phone using cell service, simultaneously connect to screen sharing with no audio on PC (less bandwidth)

          I am also going to get a dedicated cellular hotspot if WFH turns into a more permanent thing.

      3. Lucious*

        On this point-

        12 years back I lived in Chicago. The telecom company I worked for sought to install a new cell tower. The city architecture board sued to stop the project. The reason? “Cell tower antennae are eyesores”. Because of the intricate bureaucracy tied into challenging the boards decision, my employer simply abandoned the project. Which is why three blocks of downtown (as in “The Loop”) Chicago had a total signal dead zone for that company.

    8. kittymommy*

      This is the first thing I thought of as well. There are areas of my county (not that far from me) where internet and cell service is practically non-existent. This may not be an issue that the employee or the company can fix.

    9. I'm just here for the cats*

      It can happen in cities too. A coworker moved and they can only get one internet provider in her building. I guess the management has to approve the other options in the area to come and run wires. So the only option is the more expensive and really crappy option (must have a home phone along with the internet. Not just internet. It gets choppy/slows down. I had this for a while and it sucked).

      1. Cat Tree*

        I used to live in an apartment where one service provider actually paid the manager to not allow a competitor in. And the service was terrible.

        1. Self Employed*

          Tangential to that: I got in trouble with management at my building because they didn’t appreciate losing Comcast’s “referral bonus” when I didn’t get cable TV. I also lost them money by using an ISP that resold AT&T but provided far better tech support and customer/billing support.

    10. iceberry*

      My internet package was more than sufficient for my life during Before Times, it seemed to struggle with the initial burst of everyone working from home, but was doing fine. Then I had to switch my employer provided laptop and the new laptop was really struggling with the WiFi – as a solution I purchased an Ethernet cable that solved everything. Ideally the employer would have purchased that, but the fastest and easiest solution was to deal with this myself.

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

      True. And then there are those that live in an apartment or shared dwelling where it’s not just up to them what sort of internet service they have or where/if they are allowed to add hardware.

  3. Dan*


    If you’re not happy, one thing you can say is a very flat, expressionless “I understand.” That will get your point across to anybody with half a brain.

    Several years ago at my first job, I went two years with no raise. There were excuses and what not, but I still got the big bagel. (The second year they told me no raise until I got promoted. They had a reorg of sorts and put me in at the top of a pay band. That was kind of dumb. Nevermind that excuses are meaningless when my rent keeps going up.) Year 3, I got a new boss and a promotion. When I got the “good news”, I just said “thank you for recognizing my contributions.” The truth was, if I didn’t get promoted (or a raise) that year, I was going to “test my value on the free market”. No raises in three years does that to a person.

    1. Dee*

      No, not everyone will understand tone and subtext like that. LW might not want to go that route if it is a priority to make sure the message gets across. If LW either knows that these particular people will get the message or doesn’t care if it gets across completely, then I think your suggestion is a good way to go.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. For my own peace of mind I need to say something a little more direct. I worked in one place where positions were created (pulled out of thin air) so the person could be paid more. Knowing this, I felt bolder about asking for myself. When I got the NO answer, I filed it under “good to know” and proceeded accordingly.

    2. Cat Tree*

      It’s not necessary to drop subtle hints when direct communication is normal and expected. Why not just directly ask for a raise.

      And FWIW, I wouldn’t wait three years to start looking. I’d polish my resume as soon as I didn’t get a raise the first time. If I’m gonna hint rather than ask, leaving for a better job would be better hint than just making some mildly disapproving facial expressions.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Agree totally. Any decent manager wants information. If a manager can’t keep their best employees because of the low pay, the ability to back that up can be really useful.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes! If pay is the driver for you seeking another job, I’d like to know that directly and unambiguously. This is not something where I’d like to play guessing games about what the message is supposed to be. A flat, “I understand.” could be, “Well, this isn’t what I wanted but we are in a pandemic and it’s better than being laid off.” or it could be, “This is totally unacceptable, and I’m polishing my resume tonight.” You know what they say about assumptions.

  4. Beth*

    LW3, it’s worth keeping in mind that this might not just be a financial issue. If your employee lives in a part of town with poor internet infrastructure, there is a possibility that it’s simply not feasible to get better service, short of moving. (This is more common as an issue in rural areas, but does happen in cities too, especially in underserved neighborhoods. And of course, whatever infrastructure exists is currently under heavy use in all areas, which can exacerbate the impact of these differences.)

    It’s still worth offering to pay for better service if you can swing it; that might indeed be the problem, after all. But I think it’s simultaneously worth considering alternative options. Does he really need video to do his job, or is calling in to meetings actually working okay for now? Is screen sharing a frequent issue, or is this a once-in-a-blue-moon need that workarounds like emailing screenshots could address? Would your company be willing to supply him with a mobile hotspot device if that’s what it takes to get this working?

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, I was wondering about this. I have the best internet you can get in my town (the best) and I still have lag issues when everyone in my neighborhood is using the internet to work remotely on a busy afternoon. I’d say 60 to 70% of my coworkers live in places where better internet just isn’t an option. So, I would really think about how critical this is and what other options exist.

      1. LW3*

        Interesting! I haven’t noticed internet issues in my town at all, but maybe this employee is experiencing something like this. I’ll keep this in mind for our chat.

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

      I have a coworker who has this issue. The big ISPs coverage ends a few blocks from his house, so he depends on a small local provider. He joins calls using his phone.

    3. Poster #3*

      We are government employees, so very little can be covered. I’ve looked up better internet options for this employee to have on hand for our conversation. I’ve also looked up affordable options so it’s hopefully going to be cheaper than what they currently have. I don’t want to overstep but also want the best cohesiveness for my team.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        The government employee aspect throws an additional wrench into this problem. Yes, it means you likely cannot pay for your employee’s internet. But also, forcing your employee to pay for better internet could be leveraged by some group as bad PR for political reasons. I can think of many different angles like, “if the government only subsidizes low income internet plans for X speed, then X speed has to be good enough for government work” all the way to “the government can’t function because WFH is evil and covid is fake, get them back in offices.” You can see where I’m going with this. All that to say, if you really think there’s a cheaper and faster plan that your worker could use, it would be nice to inform them of it. But since this sounds like a temporary problem, it might not be worth the headache.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          I work for a state college, (so considered government employee) and they offered employees who didn’t have internet a hotspot. Maybe this would be something the company could do?

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

          Yes, it means you likely cannot pay for your employee’s internet. But also, forcing your employee to pay for better internet could be leveraged by some group as bad PR for political reasons.

          I can understand the PR angle/issue, but is it reasonable to expect a company (if they weren’t government) to pay for employee’s internet that they need to do their job? You could apply the same logic to other things essential to doing the job, like having appropriate clothes to wear to the office (outside of pandemic times!), the cost of the commute, etc – and yet no one makes the argument that companies ought to pay for office-appropriate clothing, transportation, etc..

          It is unfortunate though that the internet is now a de facto ‘utility’ in the same way as water and electricity, but there doesn’t seem to be a government initiative to ensure access to suitable internet.

          1. Natalie*

            I don’t know that there’s always a clearcut answer. My organization (NFP that’s very sensitive to PR given the nature of our work), everyone is eligible for a small stipend for working from home, essentially because we didn’t sign up for the job as a remote job, and the org is saving a lot on utilities at our main admin office. Anything beyond that stipend has to be handled on a case by case basis. We definitely wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars to rewire my house for fiber, but we would probably buy a new modem for someone with the understanding that it belongs to the company.

            After the pandemic, some people may be able to work from home if they want to (assuming the nature of their work allows it, naturally). And I don’t think we would subsidize their utilities as in that case, the working from home itself is a perk.

          2. JF*

            You can definitely say that, but there’s just as many examples of things that we generally assume will be provided – equipment like computers, an office to go to that has internet before – that it seems like the counter argument is just as easy.

            Ideally, people who want to can be back in the office eventually, so this may be more of a temporary problem. WFH in general, while necessary this past year, does put a lot of costs back on the employee.

          3. SimplyTheBest*

            When you choose to work from home? No. When you are forced to work from home, yes.

          4. Self Employed*

            If the employee were at the office, would the employer provide work clothes or internet? I haven’t worked for the government, but my friends who do are on the agency’s internet at work and buy their own clothing (unless it’s things like firefighter turnouts). Providing work-quality internet at home during a pandemic when they can’t work at the office seems completely reasonable.

            However, it might be worth doing some troubleshooting with the employee. If they are using WiFi and they live in an apartment building, they could have the same problems I did that were degrading my signal and freezing up my computer multiple times a day. There are so many WiFi networks in my building (and I’m in range of some office buildings nearby) that my computer just couldn’t deal. This persisted even after I got a plan with more bandwidth, and after the techs came out and fixed an issue with the switch at the phone office. They looked at the list of WiFi within range and said I needed an Ethernet cable. I still had mine from my 1999 townhouse so I tried it and voila! Reliable internet!

        3. Casper Lives*

          No it won’t. The majority of people have to have internet at home right now that’s adequate to do their job. I doubt anyone will have sympathy enough to be outraged via PR to care that someone, who’s employed when millions aren’t, that will be perceived as whining about their internet.

        4. LW3*

          Our government also put in a WFH tax break that should help subsidize the cost of needing to work from home, which my manager referenced as something that could help. It works out to $400 of a tax credit which would make a reasonable dent in the cost for internet.

          1. Llama face!*

            Curious as a fellow Canadian whether this is a new provincial or federal tax break you are referring to? I hadn’t heard of any federal break other than the preexisting “must be wfh longer than 6 months” one that wasn’t any good for most of us sent home temporarily due to COVID.

            1. patiolanterns*

              It’s a federal one. They announced it late last year. It’s a special repurposing of the T2200 for COVID WFH and is temporary, and lowers the 6 months requirement to I believe 4 weeks consecutively.

      2. Three Seagrass*

        If they haven’t tried it already, you could recommend they use a wired connection over wifi. My Zoom kept crashing until I bought an ethernet cable and now I don’t have any issues.

        1. Self Employed*

          Same here! I had a zillion neighbors’ WiFi within range and my iMac would lose the signal multiple times a day, freeze up during calls, etc. until I got an Ethernet cable out of storage.

      3. RoseMai*

        Not sure if someone’s already pointed this out, but it’s also worth asking if he’s using wired internet or relying on wifi. A surprising amount of my coworkers are using their wifi. I did too at first, but it was very patchy. I bought a super long ethernet cable so I could plug my laptop right into my router, and haven’t had any issues since!

  5. Hh*

    I understand what the family is asking of an employee is a lot, but LW1 doesn’t seem very sensitive to how scary this is for them. And even with the disabled family member vaccinated, there’s the fear that if something happens to you, no one will be able to take care of the other person.

    I do understand what they’re asking is a lot, and I think they should also offer extra pay or an offer to pay for short term air bnb stays, (it’s not mentioned if they offered any extra payment) but LW doesn’t seem to appreciate the fact that their fear is reasonable. Having unmasked angry people yelling in your face is pretty high risk contact, as is riding in a car with others, it’s certainly not the same as picking up takeout, a masked park walk with a friend or even a quick grocery store run.

    1. Sam*

      Unless they’re paying *their employee* to fully isolate at home unless with them – grocery deliveries, no cabs or public transit, etc – they’re extending their control onto someone they don’t have any association with, while not taking more reasonable actions to protect themselves.

      1. Snow Globe*

        “while not taking more reasonable actions to protect themselves” – what? It sounds like the patient is vaccinated, the other household members aren’t yet eligible, and likely aren’t going anywhere outside the home. My assumption is that the only outside contact they have is the LW’s partner, and that’s why they are so concerned. I’m not arguing that it is not an overreach, but there is nothing in the letter to indicate that the employers are not being vigilant themselves.

        1. OP#1*

          Right – they’re not asking us to do anything they aren’t doing themselves. I do think there are some aspects related to class privilege / ability (they can all drive themselves, many of the people in their social circle are able to work from home so they’re still able to spend time together) that make it harder for me and my partner to follow their rules than it is for them, and of course they’re not our only obligation even though they matter a lot to both of us. But partly because I have been following the rules (or quarantining) for almost a year, I’m trying to figure out how to communicate that it’s a huge thing to ask for the next few months until I can get vaccinated myself – I don’t think they’re aware of the tolls, because in their own experience mitigating everything you can is just what you do when you have someone in your circle who’s disabled, when you have the means / privilege.

          1. Cake or Death?*

            Question: how do they even know your comings and going’s in the first place? Are you volunteering this information?

              1. Cake or Death?*

                Personally, I’d just nod along and agree and then just live my life. It’s unreasonable what they’re asking.

                1. NYCProf*

                  Whoa please don’t. We lost a family member to covid in this exact situation–a beloved home caregiver infected both of the elderly relatives she was caring for, as well as two other caregivers who were in and out of the house. One of our relatives died, one was hospitalized, and one of the other caregivers was seriously ill. It’s a horrible situation for the OP to be in but lying is not the answer! If OP cannot follow the family’s rules until they are vaccinated then it should be the family’s choice to find an alternate caregiving arrangement for the next few months.

                2. Case of the Mondays*

                  I agree with NCYProf. The Alyson’s answer has “what ifs” like what if you were a grocery store worker. But, you are not. It’s hard for me to understand that you would consider going to a public protest more important than protecting a medically vulnerable person’s life. Employers can certainly have stricter requirements than the CDC, as long as they are not discriminatory.

                  As an example, my husband is a first responder so I was entirely barred from the office until he was vaccinated. Other employees could run in if they needed something as they were quarantining in a way that I couldn’t given my husband’s job. Before I had to go assist my very high risk elderly parents, my husband negotiated a change in duties for two weeks so he could work from home. That’s the only way I could safely help my parents.

                  I’ve heard of many other instances where requirements have extended to household members. That’s the only way to actually be safe during a pandemic.

                  And O.M.G do not lie. That is absolutely horrifying to me. If you want to say no, we can’t do this and find other work, sure. But you don’t get to lie to someone who is counting on you for their safety in a worldwide pandemic. Geez.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Case of the Monday’s, both the client and the caregiver are vaccinated, the chance of anything getting to the client from the LW is vanishingly low.

                4. OP#1*

                  @NYCProf: I’m sorry for your loss and I really appreciate you sharing your experience! I definitely would never lie, and I wouldn’t consider any modifications to the rules at all if high-risk folks and the person who’s in contact with me weren’t vaccinated.

                5. Stumped*

                  Agree with NYCProf completely. You can’t lie about that. It’s possibly the relationship with the patient just isn’t a fit.

                6. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Natalie I agree with you that the risk is likely low, it is still not eliminated entirely, and still partially unknown. But it should still be up to that individual family to decide if that is a risk they are willing to accept or not.

                  While may think the requirements they are placing on OP and the employee are over the top, the employer is allowed to make those requirements, and employees need to decide if they can abide by them or not.

                7. boop the first*

                  @Natalie, is it though? Because there is discussion about people not only passing covid post vaccination but also catching it themselves, because it’s supposed to be “common knowledge” that the vaccines don’t prevent illness but rather reduce the odds of devastating symptoms should you become infected.
                  Now, I didn’t even hear about that before, and perhaps it’s not really accurate, but that along with the constant insistence from health authority that children aren’t carriers for some reason, and many other convenient mixed messages that makes me less than certain. It’s possible that no one really knows anything.

                8. Natalie*

                  @ boo, yes, it is known that being vaccinated significantly reduces the risk of transmission, as well as serious illness.

                  We have known for a long time that asymptomatic carriers are less contagious than symptomatic carriers. For one, some symptoms themselves increase transmissibility (consider a person with a cold sneezing, their germs travel much father). And two, in general people who are asymptomatic seem to be infected by less virulent strains or simply lower numbers, both of which impact overall contagiousness.

                  Now that we have some months of vaccinated populations to observe, the data is bearing out that vaccinated people are quite low risk for transmission. The LW and Alison mentioned the recent CDC guidance that 2 fully vaccinated people do not need to mask or socially distance.

                  No health authorities have ever said children aren’t carriers, although they have correctly noted that children are less likely to spread covid and less likely to experience serious disease. Not being able to hear the difference between “less likely” and “impossible” doesn’t mean “we don’t know anything”.

            1. Nicotene*

              Honestly this was my thought also. What, are they giving the partner of their employee a survey every week? Just do your absolute best to socially distance (which I know you are) and don’t feel obligated to report everything you do to someone you don’t even work for.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                If they are going to protests, they are not doing their very best to socially distance. I’m as liberal as they come but I’m fully aware that protests are not safe. If they were, outdoor concerts would be too.

                1. kt*

                  If they’re getting harassed by unmasked protesters yelling in their face, then that’s not that safe, no, but I have been to several protests this year that were certainly safer than outdoor concerts. People were very conscientious about wearing masks and giving space. At outdoor concerts there is a lot more drinking and irresponsible behavior. It’s hard to down your beer with a mask on, and food and beverage sales are part of the point of many outdoor concerts.

                2. Anon Lawyer*

                  There was actually no significant spread linked to protests. Mask compliance was very high, it’s outdoors, and folks are generally in motion, not standing next to each other for hours at a time like they would be at a concert.

                  At any rate, the fact of the matter is that your employees are not your property and your employees’ family are REALLY not your property. The fact that the OP was willing to agree to this AT ALL is incredible – very few people would agree to be isolated in their own house from their partner for weeks on end due to a low risk situation. Asking them to continue it when the relevant people are vaccinated is especially egregious. At a certain point, you actually just aren’t in a position where you can hire someone to do work in your home ethically if that’s the position you are going to take.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  The “no significant spread” was a group statistic, which doesn’t help an individual.
                  And there was speculation by authorities here in NYC that the gross numbers were offset by other people taking even stricter precautions as a reaction to the outside protests.

                4. Anon Lawyer*

                  TootsNYC, if we’re talking about what is and is not a high risk activity, statistics actually do matter.

              2. Hummer on the Hill*

                I don’t know about this. I think of a caregiver of a medically fragile person and wonder why OP would consider doing anything optional that could possibly put that person at risk. The OP said that they are an “unpaid activist” so I’m sure they could get creative and think of ways to support their causes without protesting in crowds, riding in cars, etc. (And think about an activist for social causes who is willing to risk the life of a human being for whom their partner cares!)

                1. Anon Lawyer*

                  In my mind, this falls under “setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” We’re talking a period of over a year in which major world events were happening and the OP found something that was very, very important to them. Then we’re talking about a very part-time job that won’t even let OP go to the grocery store without a lengthy quarantine. That is not sustainable or ok to ask of them. OP is not going to unmasked parties in Cancun; a protest wearing a mask is a VERY different thing, especially now that their partner AND the disabled person being cared for are vaccinated.

                2. OP#1*

                  Right, in our discussions about covid I’ve asked that one of the criteria we use to make difficult decisions is “urgency”: some things can be put off 5 months no problem, some things can be put off 5 months with some sadness (e.g., you miss the thing and look forward to having it again, but going without it is causing you harm), some things can be put off 5 months with some strain that you need to mitigate (my partner and I will need to figure out what our relationship looks like if we can’t live with each other), and some things can’t be put off without immediate harm. In addition to the urgency of “my friends are being harassed by maskless people and I want to stand with them”, there’s the urgency of “we might be in one of those pivotal moments where big, transformative change is possible” (I obviously want to believe that change is always possible! And requires long-term investment. But it’s also true that there will be periods when stepping in at that time could matter more than other times). And, on the family’s side, there’s the urgency of “if we lose this person because you weren’t willing to wait, we don’t get them back.” I was willing to wait almost a year until vaccination and now I need to figure out if I need to wait longer / how long…

                3. DJ Abbott*

                  OP#1, it sounds like one of your motivations is to step up at this possibly transformative time.
                  If you didn’t go to the protests, would it make any material difference at all?
                  Probably not. Plenty of people who don’t have high-risk elderly people in their daily lives are going to the protests. Maybe let them do that while you do other things to support?
                  In my activism I’ve attended zoom meetings, drafted flyers and other documents, worked with teams on google docs to create or finalize documents, and entered data in a google spreadsheet which had been emailed to me from another part of the country.
                  None of this put me or anyone else at risk of catching covid. If you ask the organizers of your group or affiliated groups, you’ll probably find opportunities to do work like this and they will be thrilled to have the help. Have fun! :)

                4. Anon Lawyer*

                  DJ Abbott, they’ve addressed this at length in the comments – the other things they’ve tried! And they don’t even have a high risk person in their life – they have a second degree contact whose been vaccinated in their lives.

                5. OP#1*

                  @DJ Abbott, yes, desk work really is difficult for me due to a disability, and I’m already using up all my desk spoons for my paid work. Definitely open to non-screen, non-“track this task” activities, though, if you have any suggestions about those! I think it would be great for me to have a repertoire – even if covid risk wasn’t a factor. For example, I’ve been able to make calling people on the phone work for me (but the phone is draining in its own right, so I can’t do it that as often).

                6. Self Employed*

                  I’m moderately high risk but not old enough to qualify for the vaccine for a few months, given the shortages in my area. I don’t have family and my business has been decimated by the pandemic.

                  I am an “unpaid activist” and early last summer, I attended a lot of the local BLM actions in my area, and a few car caravans. (My car is not happy about either of these–it has multiple tear gas canister dents and lost two windows at the first action and blew a coolant hose caravaning to my Senators’ offices.) People were good about masks and social distancing at the actions, but tended to get out of their cars and mingle during the assembly time for the caravans. I stopped going to caravans. After the summer surge, I stopped going to in-person actions, and I would’ve been terrified to have unmasked hecklers up in my face.

                  I don’t know LW and whether or not anything I’ve done instead would be a good fit. But here’s how I’ve been supporting various causes:

                  If groups for causes I support have a social media event, I retweet and share as needed.

                  I’m in local groups that organize teams to speak at Zoom public meetings on issues (Standing Up for Racial Justice has local chapters all over, btw.)

                  I write to my electeds whenever there’s an email campaign. (I also need to write some postcards to a Senator of mine who apparently takes those very seriously, because someone took the time to write and mail them but they don’t need to be monitored for anthrax etc. like letters.)

                  I know LW wants to support friends who are being courageous in the face of potential death from unmasked jerkwads screaming in their faces, but of all the issues described in the letter, that seems the most like “setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” I understand that the friends don’t want to be bullied into submission, but what exactly are they accomplishing by being in this situation? (Maybe there is a bigger strategic goal I don’t know about. If so, feel free to disregard my comment.) None of the organizations whose events I’ve attended would expect their members to let people shower them with potentially infectious snot droplets during a pandemic. We have always been advised to maintain social distancing and NOT engage with unmasked people.

                  I’ve done text banking and letter writing for GOTV and other issues; I don’t do phone banking because I have a speech impediment.

                  There are lots of ways to engage in social justice work that don’t involve letting unmasked strangers assault you with COVID.

                7. OP#1*

                  Thanks for sharing about engaging as an activist in the middle of the pandemic! The groups I’m with have shifted tactics somewhat (there are definitely direct action times where holding space matters, even if there’s someone unmasked near you – I mean, at least holding long enough for people to get away), so my exposures ever since January have mostly been car rides. I’m still on the search for other tasks that don’t require me to be at at desk! I’ve taken on some more admin work recently because it is a skill I want to grow (newsletter, spreadsheet, grant-writing, translation) but I’m behind on deadlines already – not because I haven’t had time or energy, but because the executive function hump here, when I’m already spending all those spoons on my day job, is really, really hard. Disability is a huge part of the decision-making process here, basically.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            To me it really boils down to: the CDC and general contact tracing protocol indicates that you are not at present an exposure risk to them based only on interacting with other humans briefly while masked. I understand their fear and their caution, but they’re sort of ignoring the science when they shouldn’t be. If you had a known exposure (which I believe is considered 15 minutes unmasked with a confirmed case), what they’re asking your partner to do makes sense. Heck even if theywanted this if it were 15 minutes masked with a confirmed or suspected case, that’d make sense. But “any interaction with any human unknown to them for any length of time” is suuuuuuuuuuch a low risk to begin with. They’re basically asking you to promise you’ll never be hit by lightning.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I think it’s a bit much to ask someone to place their individual life on the line following broad statistical strokes. They want “no risk” or “drastically lower risk,” not “low risk.”

              1. Anon Lawyer*

                And at a certain point, what it comes down to is this: it is not ethical to hire someone at low pay for a few hours a week and then use your emotional connections with them to ensure that their partner is treated like a prisoner in their home for weeks on end to turn “low risk” into “no risk.” That is not right.

                1. Mayflower*

                  There is no mention of “low pay” in OP’s letter so we shouldn’t speculate. My company is in the senior care industry and I know for a fact that plenty of in-home caregivers are paid a decent wage (plus healthcare benefits that many of us can only dream about).

                  Also, I don’t know how many frail, elderly individuals you encounter in your daily life. I am guessing not many. It would be rather callous to trade a living, breathing person’s life for the marginal benefit of one person’s participation in protests.

                  It is especially questionable because there is always more racial equity building community work needed than volunteers available. I’ve done some activism myself and I am always disappointed at how many people – especially young people! – are super pumped to protest but get real scarce when it’s time to do “boring” grunt work in the community they purport to care about.

                2. Anon Lawyer*

                  Trading an elderly person’s life for protest participation is exactly the kind of hyperbolic framing that isn’t helpful here. That’s not what’s happening.

                3. Mayflower*

                  If you don’t like hyperbole, you should not call basic caregiver quarantine protocol “being treated like a prisoner in their home for weeks on end”.

                4. Dahlia*

                  @Mayflower OP has commented on the page and stated both the pay and the hours are low – this is only part time work

                5. OP#1*

                  @Mayflower: It’s better-paid than other caregiving jobs in our area, a few dollars over the local living wage for a single adult with no children. The main factor keeping my partner there is the personal connection. My partner sets his hours and it’s somewhat limited by what he as a disabled person can work, but there is a firm cap at 40 so unless he’s the only caregiver (something they’d prefer to avoid, since it’s best to have back-ups and the disabled person is very social and enjoys have multiple people in her life) it’s less than a part-time job by default. There are some health benefits.

                  I’m definitely trying to learn how to do the grunt work – and I appreciate you weighing in as someone who’s done activism! – but because of my own disabilities there are real barriers to me doing work at a desk as opposed to in the community, especially on top of my own new job. For context, a fair share of my “protest-related activities” aren’t in fact traditional protests – they might be de-escalating someone at the low-income farmer’s market who refuses to wear a mask. taking an Uber to get to a fellow activist’s house because they’re in crisis, etc. I’ve also tried to get involved with my local mutual aid helpline and have gotten over my fear of making phone calls as a result – but it’s going to be a long time (maybe never) before I can balance desk-based activism and a desk job.

                6. ShanShan*

                  Okay, but it IS ethical to choose to no longer employ that person at all in that scenario.

                  If OP #1 cares about ethics, they should lay all of their cards on the table and give the employer a clear choice between accepting this level of risk and finding a new caretaker. Ultimately, that choice is the employer’s to make, and either option would be ethically acceptable.

                  I know which one I’d pick, but maybe this family is more tolerant of risk than I am.

                7. mf*

                  Strong agree with this. If this family is only comfortable with “no risk” and wants their employee and his partner to act accordingly, they need to compensate their employee for that hardship. The OP didn’t say anything about low pay, but I would wager that their partner’s pay isn’t as high as it should give what this family is asking of them.

                8. HH*

                  But OP says they pay a few more dollars an hour than is average for the area, plus some health benefits, that’s not holding someone prisoner

              2. Anon Lawyer*

                It is NOT basic caregiver protocol to have a caregiver’s partner quarantine when there has not been any confirmed exposure whatsoever. That is the opposite of basic.

            2. Tirv*

              I think they’re basically asking you not to run around in a lightning storm while carrying a metal rod.

              1. Anon Lawyer*

                You think participating in outdoor activities while masked that have not been shown to be a significant source of spread and then seeing someone else who is vaccinated is “running around in a lightning storm while carrying a metal rod”? That’s an interesting perspective but it’s not science-based.

                Listen, it’s good that this site generally is very serious about covid. So am I. But at a certain point it crosses into fearmongering.

            3. JSPA*

              That’s not quite correct.

              The protocol is designed to reduce risk, not eliminate it.

              If everyone could follow the CDC guidelines to a T, there would still be transmission. It would be well under an R number of 1, which means that cases would decrease over time.

              But we would not be covid-free in two weeks.

              In addition, the data on how well the various vaccines protect against variants, against transmission, and against transmission of variants, is only now trickling in, a few preliminary studies at a time.

              There’s a non-zero chance that it’ll take not just one round of vaccinations, but a second, mop-up round targeted at what we now know are easily produced variants. Some of those are more transmissible. Some are partially resistant to antibodies produced either by previous Covid infection or (to a greater or lesser degree) by the specific vaccines being used now. Some are both.

              Furthermore, as it only takes a few key changes to produce each variant, the more Covid circulates, the greater a chance that one of those more-problematic variants will be produced in the area by random mutation.

              The CDC and the WHO guidelines are almost entirely retrospective; they’re based on the virus as it has been. But viruses evolve.

              If someone wants not a “population-wide reasonable risk” but “no risk,” and they’re willing to pay to make that possible, it’s entirely their right to do so. It’s your family’s right to decide that you no longer want the job, if the conditions are not going to change as soon as you need them to. But it’s not appropriate to shame anyone for setting their risk level a bit higher (or lower) than CDC guidance, based on the details of their health and their willingness to take on risk.

              Even if there were no Covid and they were simple germaphobes, they’d have the right to set the job description.

              If your BF wants to keep the job, the most helpful question might be, “what data would you need to see, to change your policy?” Depending where you are, you’ll likely have vaccine access by April, May, or June at the latest. I know it galls you, but having waited it out so far, does it make sense to cut and run so close to the end goal?

              Another conversation would be, “As there are more people needing help who have looser restrictions, my services become more valuable, especially as you’re effectively putting either my conjugal life or my partner’s life on hold.” It seems to me that a “hang in there” bonus would be very appropriate here, as would a tip pointed at you, for your support. (And no, a fruit basket isn’t going to do it.)

              1. OP#1*

                I don’t think I’m bothered so much by where they set it (though the “negative tests aren’t helpful thing” is a little frustrating) as them telling us that when the vaccine came they’d be less concerned. (They haven’t cited the variants as an issue, and their concerns were about severe covid, which in their understanding the vaccines protect against 100%). I completely understanding the calculation of “we need the highest number of caregivers, so if your partner coming in to work gives covid to the 2 unvaccinated caregivers, that doesn’t make sense for us” or “we don’t want any covid risk in our home even after our highest-risk person is vaccinated” but that’s not how it was framed. It’s fine to change your mind of course – it’s just I wish they’d been more honest about where they were or done more reflection before establishing the vaccine as an end-line. And of course, I should have been more careful myself about counting on the promise of *any* end-line, especially if the goal-post is closer to the zero end of the zero to low spectrum.

                They have said that if local cases get down to 3 / 100,000 (they’re around 9 right now) they’ll feel more open to things like me riding in a car with the windows down – but I’m jarred by the vaccine thing and worried that when that’s reached, it’ll be something else. Which again, if you’re trying to protect your family, makes sense. But I’ve got to learn how to stop interpreting what they say as a *promise*, because that’s not really something they’re able to make.

                In my area, vaccines have been really hard to come by – my own estimate is that by mid-August, we’ll all be fully vaccinated (that’s if we get the first shot of a 2-dose regimen by the end of June). And, as you said, there will still be variants to reckon with, especially because we’re in a major metropolitan place that people come to from all over.

            4. JSPA*

              Some of the emerging variants are transmitted at exposures of well over 6 feet of distance, for well under 15 minutes.

              “Wear two masks,” per Fauci, is helpful, if everyone does it.

              But the guidelines are in all other ways still pointed at the virus as it mostly was, last summer.

              Thanks to selection, the mix that’s circulating now includes a growing proportion of variants that, to our best guesstimate, are at least as intrinsically lethal (some variants perhaps 30% worse?); at least as harmful (some variants perhaps 30% worse?); and significantly more transmissible (up to 50% more transmissible).

              And every replication in every host is one more chance for the virus to come up with one of those “better adapted to human hosts” variations. Plenty of people have been living solo for a year. I feel for couples living separately in the same house, too, but…we do 7 days in separate rooms, if we have an accidental contact.

          3. Gumby*

            They *are* asking a lot. And it is not easy. It sounds like it would not be easy even if you could drive – easier, yes, but not easy.

            However, I am assuming that they are not requesting the limitations because they think it is easy. Whether safety precautions are easy or hard makes no difference to a virus. (Viruses also do not care about state lines or county lines which is something that has consistently made me scream in my head since I live in one county and work in another and each has different rules and…aaaggghh.) You might be able to explain in great detail how much of a hardship these rules are and they still might want the same safety requirements.

            1. OP#1*

              That’s true; it’s helpful to think of this as a “what are the conditions that work for them, and do those conditions work for me and my partner?” instead of “if I can get them to see how hard this is for me, they’ll change it.”

      2. Infrequent_Commenter*

        >they’re extending their control onto someone they don’t have any association with…
        Ehh, not really. The company only really cares about the employee and sets restrictions on the employee. The employee can then make decisions on how to comply. They aren’t controlling the 3rd party, they are controlling their employee and letting their employee decide how to deal with the 3rd party. By being in contact with their SO, the employee is violating CDC guidelines too (the quarantine goes both ways).

        We all saw videos early in the pandemic of doctors living in tents in their garages. It sucks, but this is the world we live in. The risk in the LW’s case was real, and the company has a right to mitigate their risk. The employee and their SO have to make choices about how to comply and what’s important to them.

        1. Anon Lawyer*

          You’re not really getting the situation right. The LW was not in a high-risk situation and no actual company would require a partner quarantine in that situation. This is an individual family employing the LW’s company and would never fly with multiple employees.

          1. TootsNYC*

            remember that the risk rises a lot because of the nature of LW’s partner’s work. He’s a caregiver–the risk that anything HE picks up will be transmitted to them is very, very, very high. That changes the equation an awful lot.

            also, it’s really cheeky to say to someone, “You should be OK risking your very life on the risk analysis of a huge epidemiological group.”

            1. Anon Lawyer*

              Then don’t hire someone to come into your home for a few hours a week and not pay them very much. That’s not a situation in which it’s reasonable to ensure that neither they nor their live in partner are interacting with anyone else in any way for a year.

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*


                We’ve seen similar things come up with nannies, where families hiring nannies want to control how the nannies behave outside work. If someone wants to do that, then should be paying much much more money.

        2. Sharon*

          Yes, the employer can have stringent requirements for their employee such requiring their employee to live onsite, or certify every day before they come to work that it’s been two weeks since they had contact with another person, or go through a decontamination booth and wear a hot zone suit at work. If they are going to require such strict protocol, though, they also need to accept that it may be difficult to find employees that agree to follow them and they may need to have multiple employees in case one has exposure and needs to not work for a couple weeks.

          In this case, it sounds like they would prefer the employee isolate completely, but they are willing to compromise on the employee being exposed to the partner as long as the partner isn’t exposed to third parties (to the best of the employee’s knowledge).

    2. PspspspspspsKitty*

      Some companies do ask these things. When the pandemic first happened, my father wasn’t allowed to travel out of state. The company even specified that they would need to quarantine if they went on a cruise, traveled outside of the state, travel outside the US, went to a high risk area, joined in the protests, and other things. In fact, they were considering providing cots and food to keep people inside the building for a few months. The travel bans have been modified, but they still can’t travel outside the US or on a cruise, which is understandable. This was from a power company who would do anything to prevent large shutdowns and power grid failures.

      I know the circumstances are different from a caregiver, but it’s still a serious situation. The risk will always be there. I wouldn’t rely on the CDC to give a yes or no answer anyways. They didn’t classify my autoimmune disease as a high risk but apparently me being fat is even though a cold could knock me out for a few weeks. Basically, I don’t think the caregivers are unreasonable. Maybe unrealistic as we can’t all have the perfect circumstances. If this is being too much, it might be time for your partner to find another job.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But were they requiring your father’s partner, who doesn’t work them, to isolate for two weeks after every instance of contact with someone else? That’s the overstep here.

        1. Not playing your game anymore*

          But it’s a very risky choice the lw is making. Contact tracing isn’t going to happen in this kind of situation, and she’s choosing to be in very close, lengthy contact with strangers that she knows won’t be taking precautions. This is exactly the sort of thing that’s made nursing homes into killing fields. At a local nursing home, one dietician who had a boyfriend who went to Sturgis. His asymptomatic infection brought Covid home to her and her asymptomatic infection came to work with her and killed number of residents.

          My Mom’s caregivers partner works in a c-store. I hate the fact that she’s out there (for her own sake, as well as for caregivers sake and Mom’s sake) We talked about what was reasonable to do, and because I know she’s incredibly diligent about distance and masking, I’ve made a certain peace with it. When her cousin died and she was thinking about going to the funeral we had plans for her to quarantine when she got back, but as it happens several more family members took sick and she decided to attend the zoom service. I don’t really see this as an unreasonable hill to live on in these times. Mom has now had two shots as has caregiver. Her partner just had her second shot yesterday. The other two adults in the house won’t be two weeks past fully vaccinated until sometime mid April. We’ll look at things again then, but until then, we all are being very careful.

            1. Ariaflame*

              BLM were doing their best to distance where possible and wore masks, unlike Sturgis. But we know that in retrospect. They didn’t know that at the time.

              1. Not playing your game anymore*

                Yeah, sometimes you only know you’re at a super spreader event 3 days afterwards. Sensible Sturgis doesn’t seem like an unacceptable risk either, as long as you stay on your bike. Keep your mask on if you stop to buy lunch and take it away with you. But of course, that’s not what happened.

                I would have been at BLM marches had my home circs been different, but, as someone responsible for keeping an immune compromised person safe, I haven’t been to a grocery store in the last year, so no BLM or Sturgis for me… I believe I have the right to ask people who come into my home to refrain from engaging in risky behaviors at this time… and protests fall squarely in that bucket. Doesn’t matter to me if it’s BLM, DPL or storming the capital. Lots of people way closer than the canonical 6 ft. Some masked, others not. Chanting, singing, yelling, spitting. And no, I wouldn’t dream of asking my employee’s partner not to live her life as she sees fit, but I can ask that my employee keep distance from persons doing risky things. It’s kind of like the old Aids Era posters… You’re not just with your partner, your with everyone they’ve been with for the last 7 years…

            2. OP#1*

              Yes, when I initially started going to protests, there was concerned about whether chanting and singing would significantly increase even an outdoor risk, but they were okay with me going as long as people were masked and I kept 10 feet instead of 6 feet away, which I know wasn’t easy for them to offer. The real problem is the unmasked, yelling, close-up interactions, which don’t happen all the time but it has come up more often than I think any of us expected (that, and then for a while me needing to ride a car because the location is either too far to bike or the situation isn’t safe enough to evacuate by myself). when we first sat down to talk about what protests would mean.

              1. Bagpuss*

                You said “Sometimes protesting has meant being closer than six feet to hostile people who weren’t wearing masks. It’s also meant occasionally riding in a car with the windows down. To my partner’s employers, both of those count as exposures”

                I think both those are high enough risk that it is reasonable to treat them as potential exposures.

                I think if they were suggesting that you had to isolate any time you had been shopping or collected take out, or every time you were on a protest, even if you were outside , masked and with others who were masked , it would be unreasonable.

                And with the car travel I think you could argue that if you and the driver were both masked for the whole time and you had the windows open that that isn’t a high risk. (also if you are both vaccinated, or the other person had had a negative test in the 24 hours prior to the ride).

                But treating it as an exposure if you’ve had an angry, unmasked person yelling at you in close proximity doesn’t seem unreasonable, although I think that if your partner is now vaccinated then it would be reasonable to reopen the conversation, as that would significantly reduce the risk of his catching it from you if you were exposed, and of passing it on to anyone else.

                there is still the issue of how reasonable it is for them to seek to control what you do, as your partner’s employer, but in terms of risk assessment it doesn’t seem unrealistic.

              2. Knope knope knope*

                Thank you for the clarification OP. I think this is really different than being expected quarantine any time you have contact with anyone ever. And since there is a significant portion of this country who believe the vaccine is a hoax and won’t take precautions or tests, I can see why your partner’s employer would choose to treat that particular interaction as a known exposure when there’s really no way to know otherwise and it sounds like an immunocompromised person’s life is at stake (maybe I’m assuming your partner’s patient is compromised). That said, I do think expectations need to evolve with the state of vaccines.

                One more distinction I am curious about: does the employer actually require you to quarantine in your room after one of these incidents? Or do they require your partner quarantine from you and that is the arrangement you two have come up with?

                1. OP#1*

                  They require he quarantine from me. At the start, that meant no shared air at all, which led to me offering, “okay, so I’ll get climbing gear so I can safely go in and out via the balcony” and “I may have to get a camping toilet, then” – now it’s walked back to me being able to walk through the house with a mask on to get to my room / the bathroom and having access to a mini-kitchen (sink, fridge, microwave, kettle, but no stove) for 30 minutes a day, which has been a little better. I’m just hoping that after he and the person he works with are vaccinated it would open up even more, because there definitely has been a strain and several more months feels like a lot.

                2. Case of the Mondays*

                  OP #1, that really does sound like a lot but have you been doing it for a year now? If so, is 2-3 more months that much of an ask? I feel like we are all getting really burned out on the pandemic but the finish line is in sight. I think it is harder to keep our eye on the prize when some of those around us are vaccinated and living freer lives than we are. I’m the only one not vaccinated in my circle of friends and family but I have to remember to keep it safe just a little while longer. All of this hardship would be for nothing if I got COVID next month.

                3. OP#1*

                  @Case of the Mondays: In my area, vaccines are hard to come by. I’m estimating 5 months until me and everyone in my partner’s household is vaccinated. I really hope I’m wrong! I don’t even mind figuring something out for the next few months really – it’s more that I’d been told “once caregivers and caree are vaccinated, we’ll be a lot less worried” and the decrease in worry so far hasn’t led to any meaningful improvement in my situation (we’re still in dialogue, and I’m hoping that discussions with commenters will prepare me to figure out what to ask for / expect from those discussions).

                  I also completely understand the “all of this hardship will have been for nothing” but I’m worried about sunk cost fallacy here, especially because the high-risk person is now protected.

                4. Anon Lawyer*

                  Mondays, this is insane. It sounds like the LW is being extremely safe. You are saying that it’s not a big imposition to basically be confined to their room for 2-3 weeks at a time for months more? When their partner and the person they care for is vaccinated? No. That is not ok.

                5. Ann O'Nemity*

                  Climbing gear to enter/exit through the balcony? Camping toilet? CAMPING TOILET?!?!

                  I just can’t understand why this level of precaution – this unbelievable burden – is being put on the OP. The partner’s employer and the partner (!) are out of their gourds.

                6. Case of the Mondays*

                  I read the climbing gear and camp toilet as being facitious – tongue in cheek, not things they were actually expected to do.

                  For Anon Lawyer – I didn’t mean stay in your room for 2 to 3 months I meant forgo protests for 2-3 months.

                7. OP#1*

                  So I did actually buy a camping toilet, but luckily never had to use it. The balcony system, which included a ladder, was recommended but not required; I did use it for a few weeks because I could see the enormous strain the family was under and I thought if me using the balcony system gave them piece of mind, it would be worth doing. I’ve been homeless and lived in non-developed countries, so my sense of “okay this is bearable” is really stretched.

                8. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  You CLIMBED OUT YOUR BALCONY to accommodate these people. That is nuts. That is absolutely nuts. Anybody who thinks that is a reasonable workaround to anything short of ogres in the stairwell is also nuts.

            3. PspspspspspsKitty*

              I find that article interesting because one paper did show that it did increase infection rates. The paper that the article quoted is a working paper and isn’t fully published yet from what I can see. It also stated that there are far riskier behaviors than protesting. Either way, I’m excited for when they fully publish the article.

            4. Mookie*

              Also, the concentration, location, and timing of nursing home outbreaks don’t appear to correspond to summer 2020 US activism at all.

                1. OP#1*

                  I (attempted to) read that paper – I thought it said the results weren’t sensitive to vehicle speed? Which made no sense to me – but, the places that aren’t bikeable tend to be destinations I’d reach via highway, so if that 50 mph speed *is* the speed, I think I might be able to have that as an average or near-average speed for the trip. Unless, of course, we get stuck in traffic.

            5. Greg*

              There is some noise in this – there is some evidence to suggest that the protests did contribute to some spread but that was canceled out by people who stayed home because they were afraid of those BLM protests.

            6. TootsNYC*

              and perhaps also because many of them, in addition to wearing masks and trying to distance, ALSO decided to quarantine when they weren’t at the protests.

              Several of the people who I knew that went to protests then stayed at home, slept in a different bedroom from their partner, or had partners who were not, you know, entering other people’s homes and spending all day there in very close quarters providing very personal care. Their partners were working from home.

            7. TootsNYC*

              here in NYC there was some outrage because of news reports that contact tracers were told not to ask people if they’d been to a protest. I don’t know how that played out in reality, but it was infuriating.

              I’m actually pro-protest. If I hadn’t had an elderly MIL dealing with her husband’s death and funeral and adjustment to widowhood, I’d have been there. Because I was working from home. But…
              I needed to be in close contact with her. And even though I wore a mask all the time, I was NOT going to put her at risk by going to a protest. And NO ONE in my household was either.
              My daughter would have really liked to go to the protests. But she didn’t want to bring the virus home to any of us, and therefore to her grandmother.

              1. Not so w0ke*

                I do not think it unreasonable for the employer to insist that the employee’s partner refrain from protesting.

                But that said, protests are less common now, all the people in question are vaccinated, and they’re having her use a camping toilet. As Jodie Foster said in CONTACT, “this is nuts.”

          1. Mookie*

            But the employer does not appear to be making this a requirement unique to this employee BECAUSE the “exposure” happened in the environments the LW describes; there is no consideration of context at all. This sounds like an across-the-board rule, which means if one’s family have jobs themselves that take them out of the home,* one would not be not allowed to live beside one’s relatives as a condition of their employment. Or does this only apply to the LW’s unpaid work? That is a ludicrous expectation for any employer, even if this is a private caregiving role paid entirely by family and the partner is their sole employee.

            *in such places as the definition of essential work is uncommonly narrow, one could be currently ineligible for vaccination despite shouldering a substantial risk of transmission from others; elsewhere, waiting lists might make immediate and full vaccination not possible

            1. Uranus Wars*

              Yes, this is how I read it. It would be ANY job or exposure outside the home, with the exception of curbside and a quick grocery store run.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                Lost in the ether but basically: I stand corrected. The employer does consider trips to the grocery store exposure…so while I understand the concerns this just…isn’t a reasonable level of control over an employees partner. I do mostly pickup from grocery stores and other retailers…but our Trader Joe’s and a few others just don’t offer pickup or delivery…so every other week I go stand in line and wait my turn. If I lived with OPs partner I’d have to quarantine from him for 2 weeks everything we needed something from the store!

                1. Self Employed*

                  I have stopped shopping at grocery stores that don’t offer curbside pickup (I can’t get delivery where I live). It is not worth the risk to get whatever at Trader Joe that isn’t available at Target or the Indian store that does pickup.

            2. OP#1*

              Yes, we talked about classism early on – we’re all close, so we’re normally able to talk through tricky questions directly, but this one has me stumped – and they acknowledged that if they’re only hiring people who live alone / have partners who can work from home, that excludes most people whose social circles include low-income, essential workers. But, it’s not like being low-income or having a non-professional job is a protected class, and they have a clear rationale beyond just being discriminatory for why that wouldn’t work. They didn’t have anyone working for them at the time who had these constraints, so I think that made the decision easier.

              I do sometimes wonder about if it wasn’t something political- their politics align fairly well with mine, but protests aren’t a tactic of theirs – whether there’d be more understanding. I did see them relax rules a little bit for people who are taking care of family members, and I’ve tried to explain that I feel a strong sense of obligation to folks at protests even if they aren’t my own family per se, but even if that was understood / empathized with – and I think they have made an effort to understand, and would prefer me to never attend protests but have tried t omake it possible – it would still come down to needing to keep their own family safe by limiting what they’re exposed to.

              1. EPLawyer*

                I hate to say this – but this is where I come down — taking part in protests is an entirely optional activity. You can … not do it. There are PLENTY of other ways to support BLM without going out into the protests yourself. A lot of high risk people COULD not be on the streets but still found ways to help.

                Could you perhaps use one of those other ways for a few weeks until everyone is vaccinated?

                1. OP#1*

                  No, this is an important point! I tried this for 3 months (mid-March to mid-June) before coming to the personal decision that I’m more more effective on the ground due to my own disabilities around managing administrative tasks – but as you point out, that’s a decision that not everyone can make, and I definitely value other kinds of work immensely especially because it doesn’t come easily to me.

                  Between June and August, my partner and I accepted that we’d have to live apart from each other, I took September and October off, he took November through January off, and I took February off. Now it’s March and I’m trying to figure out what we’ll do for the next few months – I don’t think vaccines will available for me in my area until the beginning of July (so mid-August is fully immunity). My partner and the person he cares for will be fully immune much sooner and I would be willing to wait or be separate from my partner until then, but I’m worried with other people in the household we’ll have to wait until we’re all vaccinated.

                2. Vaccine Huntress*

                  There is (usually) nothing that says you have to get vaccinated locally. I got vaccinated last week in an neighboring state, and I drove 4 hours to get there. That’s not particularly convenient but nor was it an insurmountable obstacle. Is there any chance you could do that?

                3. OP#1*

                  I’m going to be in one of the last priority groups for the vaccine, but I work in a different place than I live, so between the two of them I’ll probably figure it out without needing to go to somewhere I don’t live / work! Of course, it might be about not just me getting a vaccine but everyone in the household.

                4. Commenter*

                  This is a good point – I also really wanted to join protests, but had to make the choice that because I need to go to my dad’s house at least every other day to help him with things, since he’s older and has quite a few health issues, it just was too risky, and I tried to look for other ways to show support, donating money, phone banking for supportive causes/orgs/candidates, etc.

                  LW did make some rather strange choices it seems like, before talking to the family about options. I doubt they intended for her to get a camping toilet in her bedroom and shimmy up the side of the house on ropes. This also isn’t normal times, this has been an extraordinarily bizarre and scary year, and we are not out of the woods quite yet!

            3. Amy*

              We have a nanny working in our home. We pay very well but god knows, we don’t pay well enough to police her boyfriend’s activities. We just ask she use good judgment and alert us if she has reasonable fear of an exposure. And we extend the same courtesy to her.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Collectively, our society is not very good at trusting each other. We love to second guess and we are very good at second guessing.

                I was having coffee with an older, widowed friend every morning. I stopped when Covid started. It ended up being a higher value to the family that I just kept going over there as my friend really started to struggle without those morning visits.
                Sometimes human contact is a life-supporting necessity.

                I’d say just hire people who live alone then, if the point is so important to that employer. They can figure out how best to handle it all. A friend was doing home care for a person who is bed-bound. She was being paid $75 per week to work 12-14 hours on one day and a few hours on another day. (!!!!) If they told her that her husband had to limit his activities then she would have quit much sooner than she did. As it was, the pay was so low that stood alone as a deal breaker for my friend.

                I think that the real quandary here is that partners do need to check with each other if an employer’s requirements step into their home lives. My husband’s company required that he provide his own work vehicle. This is not small potatoes. We sat and discussed how to make this work. He understood that part of keeping the job was getting my buy-in to this arrangement. It impacted me because it impacted the household budget, space requirements, and took “us” time away from my husband as spent his own time maintaining a vehicle that was mostly for company use. (We used it on long trips once every couple years. That’s the only person use we got out of that vehicle. The company got free vehicle maintenance, storage, timely replacement service and a whole list of other free labor from my husband. )
                I would describe this whole setup as a burden in life. But I had the opportunity to weigh in before the process started. I accepted my share of the burden.

                While Covid is a much more serious thing, I tend to still go back to partners have to check in with each other and figure out if they are going to push through a stringent requirement or if the partner will seek another job.

                1. OP#1*

                  Thanks for this! My partner and I have been together for almost 3 years so we’re still learning how to have these discussions as a couple – especially because we don’t share finances. We started counseling at the beginnning of the pandemic partly to cope with the strain of the quarantines and we’re making progress but I was definitely looking at the vaccines as an easy way out of one of us having to continue giving something important up (protests for me, work for him, contact with each for both of us).

              2. Nicotene*

                Thank you, this is a reasonable position and what I wish OP’s employees could hear. You don’t get to police the lives of the extended family of your employees, although of course I understand why it’s happening. If you cannot tolerate any level of risk then I guess you’ll have to have a live-in employee that you provide room and board and all expenses to.

            4. TootsNYC*

              this is not just an office job.

              This is up-close and person caregiving. A huge percentage of the deaths were nursing home deaths, with germs brought by caregivers. Caregivers like the LW’s partner.

              And it’s not just a matter of being less efficient, or maybe getting the sniffles.
              And it’s not a normal situation. It’s a frigging pandemic!

              1. Anon Lawyer*

                Have you read all the comments? Whatever you think going on here isn’t – this is a person who has a number of paid caregivers living around the clock and OP’s partner is coming in a few hours a week and not getting paid that much. This is not a normal situation.

          2. kt*

            Where is the “very close, lengthy contact with strangers that she knows won’t be taking precautions”?

            The LW has described masked car rides and outdoor events. I would hope they’re keeping the windows cracked while driving. But neither is equivalent to being unmasked and indoors with strangers.

          3. Lyra Silvertongue*

            “She’s choosing to be in very close, lengthy contact with strangers that she knows won’t be taking precautions. This is exactly the sort of thing that’s made nursing homes into killing fields.”

            I don’t think this is at all fair. All evidence is pointing to mismanagement of long-term care homes and inadequate resources as the cause for quick spread in these communities. To pin it on the actions on the partners of people who may work in those homes just isn’t based in fact.

        2. Knope knope knope*

          I kind of get where OP’s partner employer is coming from. I don’t think it’s quite fair to call the examples described as coming into contact with anyone, they said they’re coming into contact with unmasked people yelling in their face less than 6 feet away. That’s not really the same as working in a grocery store where presumably there are safety protocols like mask requirements and social distancing.

          I also think physical location makes a big difference. I live in a hot zone where the idea of “known exposure” has just been unrealistic at some points. It can be impossible to get tests in the proper incubation window for me, who is high risk and highly motivated so I can’t really expect others will go through the hardship to test regularly. Especially strangers. Especially the type of strangers who might show up to a protest unmasked to yell in someone’s face.

          I agree the employer shouldn’t dictate OP quarantine in their room but I think it’s reasonable to expect the partner quarantine from them returning to work. Burdensome for sure, but that’s what this whole pandemic has been.

          1. OP#1*

            I don’t think the title is a 100% accurate summary, either – FWIW I tried to be specific in my message about the kinds of contacts that we’ve been having a conflict about – the protests and the car rides -even though the actual list is longer (e.g. grocery runs are a problem for them as well which I know would be a huge issue for a lot of people, but that’s a restriction we could live with / work around, especially because they provide my partner with meals so shopping isn’t as much of a burden).

            Our region hasn’t been hit as hard as other places, but we’re definitely still far from safe – and yes, hostile folks are definitely their own risk category.

            The other thing I wasn’t explicit about is that even though they offer the maximum sick leave possible.

              1. OP#1*

                Because I really believe that they deserve honesty – this is part of the territory when you’re working in someone’s home taking care of a vunlerable family member.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  good for you.
                  Thanks for being a person of honor.
                  I’m a little appalled people think you should lie in a situation in which someone’s life could be at risk.

                2. Self Employed*

                  Thank you for your honesty. I’m also boggled by all the “why do they have to know, can’t you just not tell them and they won’t worry” answers here. Uh, because that’s unethical given that it’s life or death for that family member.

                  If you have a Target in your walkable/bikeable range, I highly recommend their curbside/CSdesk pickup. No minimum, no fees, and their store brand groceries are just as good as what I usually get (and not short-dated like Grocery Outlet) but quite reasonably priced.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              If they have a problem with grocery store runs, they’re being completely unreasonable.

              I understand people have a lot of fear around covid transmission, and I’m sympathetic. But simply put, it’s not possible for most people to live their lives in a bubble. They’re demanding this not only of their employee, but everyone he lives with? That’s just not feasible. This precludes anyone working for them whose family includes an essential worker, who needs to take public transport to essential appointments, who needs to do any sort of in-person errand or appointment, who leaves the house for exercise in a populated area, who has children…. etc.

              Personally, I would look up the CDC definition of “close contact” and only tell them about incidents that met THAT definition. Unless you were within 6 feet of a particular person for more than fifteen minutes, there was no close contact to report. Regardless of what the employer thinks, a brief interaction with an angry person at a protest where you are otherwise social distancing does not meet the definition. Neither does interacting with the checkout clerk when purchasing groceries, helping a neighbor carry a heavy package inside, or passing somebody on the sidewalk.

              Obviously you should continue to take all possible precautions (masking, social distancing when possible, etc). But quarantining in your own home after any interaction with the public no matter how brief should not be on the table.

              1. mf*

                Agree that the grocery store runs thing is ridiculous. Everyone’s gotta eat, so the only way to avoid going to the grocery store is to pay to do curbside pickup or delivery. If the family doesn’t want the OP entering a grocery, then they need pay for those services.

                I’m really getting the strong feeling that this family wants the OP and her/her partner to bear the burden of all these restrictions, but they aren’t willing to shoulder the financial cost. (OP shouldn’t have to climb over the balcony to avoid sharing air with her quarantine partner–the family should be *paying* for him to have a place to quarantine.)

                1. OP#1*

                  We’re really privileged to have a local grocery store down the street that does free curbside as well as farmer’s markets. (There are other issues with them – delays, limited items, more expensive – but because this family provides my partner with most of his meals, that wasn’t the battle we wanted to fight. On my end, I’ve been eating a lot of take-out. Meals are hard at the best of times and even in non-covid times going to the grocery store is an overwhelming experience for me as a disabled person.

                  But, counting other people’s grocery visits as an exposure and then not allowing me to be exposed to those people has been an issue…

                2. Ace in the Hole*

                  OP#1, I’ve run out of nesting but I want you to think about something.

                  There is a diminishing level of risk with each link in the chain. There is a significant risk that the client would get sick from a caregiver with covid (hard to estimate, but some studies put it at about 50% probability with no vaccination and we have good reason to believe vaccines greatly reduce the chance). But what would it take for that to actually happen under a more reasonable set of safety protocols? This is a thought exercise using very rough risk estimates from my local area. Here is transmission route with the HIGHEST probability:

                  1. Boyfriend catches Covid from brief, masked, socially distanced contact during essential errands like grocery shopping or a doctor’s visit. This is very low risk per individual even with widespread community transmission – my county has had widespread cases for many months, and still less than half a percent of people have been sick with covid from community transmission. The rate goes down significantly for individuals who are careful about following safety guidelines. So a very inflated risk assessment would be 1% chance over an entire year.

                  2. Boyfriend passes covid to client before Boyfriend is aware he’s sick. Studies on inter-household transmission 50-60% chance for married couples who lived together throughout the duration of illness. The risk is substantially lower since he doesn’t live there, they’re not in as close of contact, and he would cease all contact as soon as he realized he was ill. But let’s use the high side estimate and say 50% chance.

                  3. The client actually becomes ill in spite of the vaccine – since vaccines are 95% effective at preventing severe illness, there’s a 5% chance client will get seriously sick (actually much lower chance but I’m simplifying considerably).

                  Probabilities multiply, so the chance of transmission through all three steps is 0.0125% over the course of a year based on these estimates. That is a 1 in 8000 chance. If a whole city of people in the client’s position had caregivers who followed these steps, we’d expect to see only one or two of them actually hospitalized over the course of a year and ZERO DEATHS from covid.

                  Now let’s add two extra steps for what they’re asking you to do, assuming Boyfriend never leaves the house except to see Client:

                  1. You catch covid from brief masked contact at a grocery store or outdoors at a protest (0.5% chance)
                  2. You transmit it to your boyfriend (50% chance)
                  3. Boyfriend reaches the contagious stage before you are aware you’re sick – very unlikely! You are most likely to transmit it to him 1-2 days before you get symptoms, and he won’t be contagious for a couple of days following exposure during the incubation period. This is hard to estimate off the cuff, but I’m going to ballpark it at 10% chance.
                  4. Client actually catches covid from exposure to boyfriend (50%)
                  4. Client becomes seriously ill (5% chance)

                  We’re now looking at a (very rough but generous estimate) 0.000625% chance – that’s 1/16,000 annual risk. So if you had sixteen thousand clients in this position for a whole year, we’d expect to see only a couple get seriously ill and again zero deaths. Again, that’s a very high estimate… actual risk is probably much lower. That’s the odds WITHOUT any of the in-home quarantine stuff they’re asking of him/you.

                  Evaluating risk is highly individual based on individual values, but I think it’s important to look at actual probabilities when making decisions. They’re asking you to do something that is extremely difficult, costly, psychologically damaging, and potentially harmful to your physical health… over an unavoidable risk that is significantly lower than ordinarily accepted risks like driving in cars. I think perhaps you haven’t considered that they are asking you to take on significant additional long-term risks that vastly outweigh the one they’re trying to avoid.

                  What they’re asking of you is both unreasonable and untenable. It’s not based on public health guidance, it’s not based on science, it’s not based on the best medical knowledge available. It’s based on a fear that is rational in concept but irrational in severity. YOU are bearing the costs of their irrational fear. Indulging it is not a kindness – it only enables the anxiety which allows it to become even more entrenched.

                  You’re close to this family. If you were hurting two of your friends because of an irrational fear, wouldn’t you want them to set boundaries and take care of themselves? Wouldn’t you want them to tell you that you were out of line and hurting people? Be kind to yourself and them by not allowing this unhealthy degree of control to persist. I understand why you would be uncomfortable withholding information.

                  My suggestion: tell them once, “Boyfriend and I will continue to take all possible covid precautions and carefully follow all public health recommendations. But we really need to have some privacy. We will let you know whenever we’ve been in close contact with someone outside the house based on the CDC definition of “close contact,” and we’ll tell you right away if either of us has symptoms, exposure to covid, or anything else that meets recommendations for in-home isolation, but otherwise we’re going to keep our personal activities private.” Then follow through and stop telling them about incidental contacts.

        3. PspspspspspsKitty*

          If anyone in the household (or someone he had close contact with) did anything like I listed above, including protests, my father would have to be quarantined. Of course I’m not saying it’s okay for the employer to dictate others. The only one they can request to quarantine is their employee.

        4. Knope knope knope*

          If you see OP’s comment below, that’s really not what they’re asking. Does that change your answer?

          1. OP#1*

            Yes my comment got cut off but I was just saying that they offer the maximum sick leave possible and that worked for a while, but it’s run out, so at this point whenever my partner quarantines it’s unpaid.

            1. Mx*

              So they can’t carry on asking him to quarantine unpaid. That’s totally unreasonable. Can he find a more reasonable employer.? There are still plenty of jobs in this field.
              Or if he has to lie about your whereabouts. After all he’s vaccinated !

              1. OP#1*

                Lying isn’t something either of us are comfortable with. We’ve talked through other jobs, but this isn’t his main field – he got this job through me (it is my main field). He has a lot of anxiety about job things in general that he’s working through, and I think for him he’d like his next job to be in this field. Plus, if you’re worried you’re not good at something, it helps to have a personal relationship so you know your employers will talk through problems with you…even if it leads to unreasonable requests like what we’re currently experiencing. We did have a long talk last night about how he is eligible for unemployment – which I didn’t realize, since it’s so part-time – so it’s not a purely financial problem. But, being able to wake up and have something to do, with people you genuinely like, is meeting other needs for him. He did step away for a few months to reduce impacts on me and we had an agreement that he’d go back in February, which I was okay with because it seemed likely that the vaccination situation might change things for us – but now it’s looking like there’s a possibility his employers won’t get more flexible when the risk is lowered after all.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Respectfully and with concern: Sometimes staying in situations like this exasperates anxiety and other mental health issues. I’ve thought it to be ironic and wildly unfair but sometimes we have to get out of the rock-and-a-hard place situation in order to be able to resume breathing.

                  I assume my experiences are much tamer than your partner’s experiences. But I have noticed many positive changes in me and my own thinking when I removed myself from these settings. In some ways, these difficult spots can ramp up all of our deepest concerns. There’s definitely a feeling of being trapped, with no where to go.

                  I do not think it’s a source of shame or failure to say, “I cannot accommodate that request”, knowing full well that may mean the end of the job. In a much tamer example, I lost out on a promotion because I refused to climb ladders. Instead of seeing it as just the way I was and I do not climb on ladders even at home, the employer decided that I was insubordinate. A cohort said, “Hire NSNR for that position and *I* will do all the ladder work.” And they still would not promote me. The promotion was not worth it to me knowing that I would HAVE to climb up as much as a story high on a ladder, my dread was that large.

                2. Anne of Green Gables*

                  Since it sounds like you & your partner are both close with his employer, can you all talk together about what/when the end of you having to limit your living in your own home ends? It sounds like you both thought the vaccinations would bring changes and that hasn’t been the case, so I wonder if finding out when they will feel comfortable and what it will take, and then what compromises they are willing to make/consider would help at least get you to know how much longer you are looking at. I can’t tell if they moved the goal line or if you just haven’t talked about it, but if it’s the later, now is the time. At that point, too, you and your partner can discuss if you are willing to continue to that point or not. You’ve already agreed to far more than I would, but setting that aside, I do think it’s reasonable for them to spell out exactly what it will take for their expectations that you don’t see your partner in your own home will end, so you can at least know if this has an end in sight or will continue indefinitely.

                3. OP#1*

                  Thanks for this as well! Yes, the ladder perspective is helpful because some of our issues are financial (me not being able to afford other housing, my partner not getting that much money from them in the first place), and those are what’s easy to focus on. But there are things that are starting to feel like non-negotiables – this family’s position on risk (which I can understand), me showing up for protests, my partner wanting to have a job – where money isn’t the main thing. I do think how much money you have – or are used to having – does affect how good you are at standing up for the tihngs that matter to you.

                  When the pandemic first started, even before the protest, seeing people be able to put precautions in place to protect themselves was revelatory for me because I grew up poor with disabled family members and when we went through crises we rarely had the ability to control or manage the situation. I always thought a little money would have gone a long way to help – and it would have – but it’s also the things that come with having money / being secure. You can walk away from a job, tell your partner “no”, or advocate for a disabled person without money, but the lived experience of asking for what you want and usually getting it makes taking that step much easier.

                  Again, I care a lot about this family and I have a lot of empathy for what they’re going through, but I think part of why it’s been so hard for me to stand up (my partner comes from a slightly more privileged background though things have been bad for him lately and he’s conflict-averse in general) is that they’re used to being able to make requests and I’m deeply not.

                4. kt*

                  FWIW, I think you’ve been really cool about the whole thing. But yes, the situation has changed and all the high-risk people are vaccinated, and I think that ought to change the outlook too. It sounds like they’re having dinner parties with friends, etc, but you & partner have to quarantine? I think that is unreasonable.

                5. OP#1*

                  @Anne of Green Gables: Yes, we’re in dialogue and I think a good outcome is still possible but definitely a little worried based on what I’ve heard from them so far. I’m hoping reading responses will help ground me for the discussion at least!

                6. OP#1*

                  @kt: They’re not being reckless – it’s just a few friends who live alone, work from home, shop curbside, and limit their own contacts – but it’s definitely made me aware of how many of my friends can’t take those same precautions because they’re essential workers (and, to be fair, my friends who aren’t disabled don’t all see a need to take precautions because they’re not high-risk, and my friends who are disabled don’t want to take the risk of spending time with me until they’re vaccinated, which not all of them have been able to get).

                7. EventPlannerGal*

                  With kindness, while I understand your partner’s perspective, I think that having this personal relationship is what is creating most of these problems. Is whatever reassurance he is getting from it worth the amount of effort, isolation, and bending over backwards that I am seeing in all your comments?

                  And I do appreciate that I can’t speak to your partners experience with anxiety, but there are some very common issues with working with friends/family: fear of letting them down. Fear of losing personal ties should you do something wrong at work. Difficulty distinguishing between personal requests and obligatory work duties. Intrusion of work into your personal life. I find it hard to believe that these would be easy to deal with as a person with an anxiety disorder, or that they are a good trade-off for being able to talk through thing with your employer. There are a lot of employers out there who will talk through problems with him without having a personal relationship.

                8. OP#1*

                  It’s more anxiety about obtaining a job – before this, he was unemployed for 2 years, and he only got this job because he didn’t have to apply for it. He’s fine with temp work, where a recruiter is handling the connection, but the agencies he’s working with don’t always have something for him.

                  In the past few months he’s started going to therapy (a big step for him) to try to address job-searching anxiety. Alison’s book is on my list of things to get him as a “are you ready for this?” step. But this situation is definitely coming to a head whether he’s ready or not…

                9. Fish*

                  OP, I think you should and your partner should do the sums and work out whether your household has made a net financial gain or a loss from this job.

              2. Infrequent_Commenter*

                >So they can’t carry on asking him to quarantine unpaid. That’s totally unreasonable.

                No, it’s not. If it were exposure at work, it would be unreasonable. Here, the employee is choosing to be in contact with someone who is potentially exposed. There’s no reason the company should pay for that.

                The OP’s characterization of the situation (demanding a 3rd party quarantine) is not accurate. The company doesn’t care if the partner quarantines or not — what they care about is if their employee is in contact with them. It’s the OP that is making the connection, not the company.

                1. Dahlia*

                  Unpaid quarantine for part time work???

                  Nah. Not reasonable. Almost no one’s going to be able to do that.

              3. Knope knope knope*

                Though I agree unpaid time off is an untenable situation that should be avoided by the employer at all costs, it also sounds like OP’s partner ran through all of his paid sick leave allotment and it still didn’t cover the quarantine period. I know for myself, when our childcare fails my husband or I need to take off from work. Neither of us had unlimited time off and though we can afford to provide more than we receive, there is a real limit to what we can offer in paid leave. I think there comes a point where OP and their partner need to decide whether they can work within the constraints of the job or not.

              4. TootsNYC*

                I’m appalled you’re suggesting people lie. Especially about this.

                For one thing, the moment it came out (and it would come out), there will be hell to pay. But mostly…

                you do know people die of COVID-19, right?

            2. Knope Knope Knope*

              That is indeed an extra burden. IDK how much maximum is but that is definitely a hardship, though I guess I could see both sides depending on their circumstances. When my childcare fails, either myself or my husband has to take off work, so we are limited in the amount of time off we can realistically offer by the amount we receive from our own employers. Still, I think paid time off is really important to provide whenever possible, especially in this pandemic.

        5. TRexx*

          I do not think it’s an overstep to ask someone’s partner to isolate themself from a caretaker providing close contact services to an elderly high risk patient especially after they attended a protest with lots of unmasked, yelling strangers in close contact! And I certainly do not agree attending an event with lots of unmasked people yelling without masks is equivalent in risk to working in a grocery store – which probably has some protocol in place to protect their employees, customers and be able to contact trace better if there was an outbreak due to credit card usage etc.

          The alternative for the elderly patient’s family would be to find another caretaker – whose household wasn’t participating in events that would make anyone in that household more likely to catch the virus and pass it on.

          Now that the elderly patient is vaccinated and more protected though, I think some of those asks should probably be toned down a bit.

          1. On a pale mouse*

            Contact tracing? At the grocery store? Pretty sure that’s not feasible. The only protocol we have right now is mask wearing, and we can’t enforce it. And they come up to my counter and pull their masks down to tell me what they want. And I want to shout, excuse me, you are directly in front of me, less than six feet away, talking to me, this is exactly when we both most need you to keep the damn mask on! But I can’t. All of which is to say, I work at the grocery store and haven’t touched my elderly parents in over a year now.

            Protests with lots of unmasked people shouting might be worse, but I don’t consider working at the grocery store very low risk.

            1. On a pale mouse*

              To be clear, since I think there has been some nesting fail: I think way upthread someone was asking, hypothetically, could an employer refuse to hire someone whose partner worked in a grocery store. And I’m saying, I don’t think that would be completely unreasonable, even if it’s not directly comparable to LW’s situation.

          2. kt*

            The LW describes an *occasional* unmasked angry person, not lots. If the rule was “Whenever someone sprays spittle at you within 6 feet” that could make sense, but the blanket prohibition doesn’t make sense.

            And I’m afraid you’re totally incorrect about contact tracing at grocery stores; there are no procedures in place for customers and no effort is made to contact customers in the US. Perhaps in smaller countries with lower case counts this is happening, but in the US we’re long past any attempt at that and the desire to “safeguard our freedoms” means that grocery stores and credit card companies will not share that data.

            1. TRexx*

              Here we have procedures to contact trace. At a minimum, the facility is able to contact trace its employees and their exposures- whereas at an event with lots of strangers, there would be much less likelihood of any sort of contact tracing.

          3. Anon Lawyer*

            Presumably the OP isn’t standing there while someone shouts at them at close range for an extended period of time. Someone shouting at you outside suddenly while you’re wearing a mask and then you move away actually isn’t a high risk situation.

            1. OP#1*

              Right, we had a whole discussion on “shouting” modifiers and decided that 2-3 minutes counts compared to 15 minutes. We shifted tactics but for a while “stand in between hostile people and the people they want to hurt” was definitely a thing, unfortunately.

        6. Pescadero*


          It’s an overstep to the point that it should not be legal under employment law.

          1. TootsNYC*

            an awful lot of employment law doesn’t apply when you work for someone in their home, providing personal care. It’s just not the same as working in an office or store.

        7. Infrequent_Commenter*

          That’s almost certainly not the situation/the OP isn’t describing it accurately….or if the employer is saying that, they are just describing it wrong and it doesn’t actually change anything. The company wouldn’t care if the OP quarantines, they’d care if the OP’s partner/their employee is exposed to the them. That’s it. It’s the employee/partner who would be violating the rules. The OP can do whatever they want, it’s the partner’s risk the partner’s company cares about.

          People made that sacrifice a lot during the pandemic. When my SO traveled during the pandemic, I’d avoid seeing her for two weeks after. Not because my employer and my parents’ assisted living facility required that of HER, but because they required that of ME.

          1. OP#1*

            Thanks, it’s good to hear from someone in a similar position (you’re keeping away from a partner to keep others safe)! Yes, the impact on me is having to quarantine but an alternative would be my partner quarantining and me getting to move around the house (the mental impacts on him of quarantining are higher – though obviously it hasn’t been easy on me either). The employer isn’t mandating which person. For me the main issue is us getting to spend time with each other, so a lot of the frustration is around being separated in general, for weeks on end, many times.

        8. a clockwork lemon*

          My partner and his entire office got COVID when a coworker picked up the virus from his live-in girlfriend and brought it to work with him. Eight employees got sick, and it kept me out of treatment for my own medical condition for over a month. My mother and her elderly high-risk parents in a different state all got the virus from a relief caretaker who was asymptomatic and….picked up the virus from his partner who was “safely” socializing. My grandmother almost died.

          I don’t think it’s trying to exert control over someone else’s partner to say that anyone you’re paying to come into your home has to follow the same level of safety protocol you are before they can come do work in your home. Personally, I wouldn’t want to have an in-home caretaker during quarantine who isn’t taking the same precautions I am, and I’d be very upset if I found out that my employee wasn’t following those quarantine protocols and their partner was out and about in the world.

          1. OP#1*

            Thank you for sharing your experiences!

            Yes, the virus definitely can spread to someone through their partner and then on to the workplace and workplace-people’s partners, like you described. My own thinking is based off the CDC’s guidelines that there’s less risk of a vaccinated person spreading the virus; the me-my partner-receiver of care-home transmission steps will be interrupted by my partner and and the receiver of care having the vaccine (and the receiver of care themselves won’t be at risk of severe covid). The hard part is that since workplace and home aren’t separate places, so family members who want an added layer of protection would have to steer clear of my partner while he’s working.

            1. Colette*

              I agree that being vaccinated changes the situation – but it’s also true that no vaccine is 100% effective, and the virus is continuing to mutate. IMO, what really will make a difference is when enough people get vaccinated that get low enough that case numbers drop significantly.

              There’s less risk now that your partner is vaccinated – but I don’t know if I’d let him in my house, either.

            2. TootsNYC*

              remember that the vaccine is not a shield.
              It just speeds up the body’s response.
              So after your partner has encountered the virus, it starts to replicate, and it spreads both inside and outside of his body. He is breathing it out while his antibodies are ramping up and beginning the fight.
              And so he is contagious until the antibodies have overwhelmed the virus in his system.

              We don’t know at what point in that replication process the antibodies will win. It’s faster after vaccination, of course, but we don’t know how long it will take. and we don’t know how much virus he’ll be breathing out in the meantime.

              But his employers DO know that whatever he’s breathing out, he’ll be breathing it out into the air that’s in their home, that’s in their immediate vicinity, and perhaps even that’s right in front of their face.

              They’re entitled to demand the lowest possible risk.

              1. Anon Lawyer*

                Nobody is entitled to anything. They can ask things but that doesn’t make it right, especially given the emotional manipulation that appears to be involved here.

              2. biobotb*

                Generally speaking, after someone’s created enough antibody-producing cells, vaccines *can* produce a shield — there are antibodies that can prevent viruses from getting into their target cells, so they never get to the replication step. I’m not sure it’s known whether/how well the coronavirus vaccines cause people to generate antibodies that can block infection, vs. helping the body kill infected cells, though. But your blanket statement is not as true as you’re making out.

            3. Librarian1*

              I think you’re right that the risk is significantly reduced now that all those people are vaccinated.

        9. MLW*

          OP#1 said in the original letter that the company was requiring her to isolate, but in the comments, it seems that they asked the partner to isolate from OP. Effectively the same thing, asking them to be apart, but they weren’t requiring the OP to do anything. I’d liken it to a company requiring their employee to get a flu shot, the overstep would be trying to require the employee’s partner to get one.

          1. kt*

            To quote the OP in another part of the thread, “They require he quarantine from me. At the start, that meant no shared air at all, which led to me offering, “okay, so I’ll get climbing gear so I can safely go in and out via the balcony” and “I may have to get a camping toilet, then” – now it’s walked back to me being able to walk through the house with a mask on to get to my room / the bathroom and having access to a mini-kitchen (sink, fridge, microwave, kettle, but no stove) for 30 minutes a day, which has been a little better. I’m just hoping that after he and the person he works with are vaccinated it would open up even more, because there definitely has been a strain and several more months feels like a lot.”

            1. OP#1*

              Yes – I could have asked my partner to do all those things instead, giving me free reign of the house – but *one of us* had to take up the strain or move out and I was much better mentally-equipped for it.

              1. OP#1*

                And, when it did shift to “brief passages”, they had concerns about him briefly passing through a space where I was hanging out for extended periods of time un-masked – so it really was a “the exposee has to quarantine, even though they’re not the one who works for us” situation, because they’d count that as an exposure. They have loosened that a little now, but only in the past month or so when I started looking for other housing and wanted to better define what counts as “shared air”.

                1. meyer lemon*

                  To be honest, if this was me, I would be looking at finding a friend or family member to stay with until the partner’s employers relaxed these standards (although I realize that’s not always feasible). It sounds like you’re a very thoughtful and accommodating person, but I would only be willing to do this once or twice before looking into other options.

                  It sounds like part of the reason you were willing to live with these conditions is because it was temporary, but at this point, I think you have to imagine that it might not be, since it’s not under your control. How long would you be willing to put up with this? Six months? A year? Three years?

                2. Anon Lawyer*

                  Honestly, OP, I think they’re taking advantage of you and your partner. They know you well, you care about them a lot, and they don’t seem to care what kind of impact they’re having on your life. That’s really worrisome.

                3. OP#1*

                  Yep it’s taken me a long time but I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that the vaccination won’t be the end – I don’t have a friend or family member with a spare room, so I did get a basement apartment for myself for the next two months (the housing money they’re providing covers 60% of the cost, since it’s a lease and not an Airbnb), and I’ve told the family it would be helpful for me to know more from them soon about how they’re thinking of vaccines so I can decide whether to move back with my partner, stay here, or find a cheaper place with roommates even though then we’ll be adding more potential exposures to the equation (and my partner’s begun updating his resume…).

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Whoa. Okay.
                  * They had you ready to use a camping toilet and CLIMBING GEAR to get into your home through the balcony (not clear if you ended up doing that or not).
                  * They are choosing not to pay your partner anything when he needs to quarantine.
                  * You didn’t feel you could get help when you were injured.
                  * You are now living separately from him.
                  * You’re having to use your own money to pay for separate housing for yourself.

                  And all of this is for low-risk activity that no public health expert is recommending quarantine for. That requirement is their prerogative, but these are the sort of restrictions that people are compensated for. They are choosing to make you pay these costs instead.

                  This is all a huge imposition for a part-time job of a few hours a day! As someone else wrote here, “You are really bending over backwards for people who pay your partner low wages for part-time work, and who pay you…nothing.”

                  You say that’s because you know them and feel close to them. Why doesn’t that relationship create any obligation from them to help you? You’ve said you’re by far the less financially privileged party in this scenario. They are taking advantage of you.

                5. TootsNYC*

                  They didn’t have her ready to use a camping toilet. That was LW’s hyperbolic solution that was part of her objection to their desires. When she proposed it, they backed down a bit.

                6. Anon Lawyer*

                  TootsNYC, backed off to having them isolate in their room for weeks and only occasionally leaving to use the toilet or grab food. That’s hardly reasonable.

                7. MLW*

                  The getting climbing gear and a camp toilet sounds like a bit of an overreaction. The OP never said they were required to do that. I can’t tell if the employer has stopped paying when the employee needs to quarantine. I also assume that when the partner chooses to not work it’s so they can be in contact with the OP. They have been doing this for months and made it work. Now all of a sudden the OP decided to get another place. I didn’t see an update from the OP on if the employer responded to their recent overstep of going to their partner’s employer. I think both the OP and the employer have handle things poorly. I’m not going to say the partner is wrong for trying to work. It sounds more like the OP is forcing their partner to take time off because they refuse to quit going to protests. That’s not choosing work over family. The joining protests are a want, they aren’t a need.

                  OP, when you said you took September and October off, you mean from joining protests, right? From what I can tell you have a job that you get paid for and you are committed to activism in your free time? If that’s correct, you made (or came to an agreement with) your partner take off three months. That’s not unreasonable of the partner’s employer to not pay for their time off. The OP has not had an update about if the person and the partner being vaccinated will relax their rules, but went out and rented a place and is saying they need to hear so they could possibly change their arrangements. It just seems like the OP’s story keeps changing.

                8. MLW*

                  I guess I missed seeing anything that said the employer stopped paying the partner when they need to quarantine. Taking 3 months off is not quarantining.

                9. MLW*

                  Found it finally. I also side with the employer on that part. They’ve asked an employee to please quarantine if they have someone in their home who is going to certain types of events. The OP continues to willingly go to those types of events. This could be looked at as the OP and partner are abusing the system. The employer finally said enough’s enough. Yes, the employer’s requests are over the top. It also sounds like they have enough other help that they don’t need to keep this person employed, they let them take 3 months off. They could easily just let them go. OP makes it sound like the job isn’t needed to be financially stable and isn’t in the partner’s normal field of work. Sounds more like it’s a job just to have a job.

                10. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Nope, it’s not just about protests. The OP has said they have the same requirements the same way for masked grocery store runs, etc.

                  I can’t imagine how the OP’s willingness to use climbing gear to get into her own house in order to comply with their requirements is “abusing the system.” Take a look at all their comments here — I think you’ll have a different take once you do.

                11. MLW*

                  I have looked at all of the comments. Not sure why you think the climbing gear comment wasn’t hyberbole. And it is about the protests. The OP didn’t have any issue not going to the grocery store. The only issue was the activism activities that they didn’t want to give up. The OP also hasn’t heard if the employer is going to relax their requirements now that they are vaccinated. This isn’t a taking advantage of the OP’s partner because they are friends. There’s other people that work there. I’m guessing these rules apply to all of them as well. But back to it, the partner is doing the job because they want to work than be unemployed, not that they need to work this job to support themselves. It sounds like they do it a few hours a week to get out of the house. I’ve already said the employer is being unreasonable in their demands, but the OP “bending over backwards to meet them” is on them.

                12. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The OP says in a comment, “grocery runs are a problem for them as well” and that the protests were just one example but there’s a longer list of activities they object to.

                  I agree, though, that she and her partner are being too accommodating. (That is not to endorse lying to them, as some have suggested doing! I mean they need to rethink what they are and aren’t willing to do, and the partner can let the employer know that.)

                13. MLW*

                  OP has also said that the employers are holding themselves to the same standards. And mentioned that not all employees have followed 100%, but did not suggest that there were any repercussions for it. Everything I read says it’s about not wanting to give up going to protests.

                14. Natalie*

                  @MLW, they’re socializing with friends solely on the basis that those friends work from home and are “limiting” contacts. That’s hardly holding themselves to the same standards. And whatever you think about the relative risks of protesting, lengthy in person socializing is absolutely more risky.

                15. MLW*

                  @Natalie, the OP said the employer is following the same rules.

                  I think we are the same page that the employer is being exteme and unreasonable. But unless they are breaking the law, they are free to ask their employees to do this. It doesn’t mean it’s morally or ethically okay. But that brings it back to the OP and their partner.

                16. MLW*

                  e.g. grocery runs are a problem for them as well which I know would be a huge issue for a lot of people, but that’s a restriction we could live with / work around, especially because they provide my partner with meals so shopping isn’t as much of a burden

                  The OP says even the grocery runs were even a problem for the employers as well. And a restriction they could live with.

                17. Jackalope*

                  No, the family is NOT doing what they’re asking of the OP. Or at least not in an equitable way. Their friends are “limiting contact”. Which sounds well and good, but the chance that every person in their range of “limited contacts” is also avoiding the grocery store and the dentist and everything is slim to none. And even if they are all doing this perfectly, the employers are still saying that the OP can’t have contact with anyone but the employers’ group of friends, which may or may not be her friends as well, and have cut her off from her entire community and support network. The OP is also disabled and has been doing this by herself for the last year. And now they want her to continue indefinitely even though the vulnerable disabled person is fully vaccinated, as is her partner.

                18. MLW*

                  OP- How many times has your partner had to quarantine during this time?

                  The people concerned are others in the household where the partner works. The OP has not heard from the employer about whether things will change now that they are vaccinated. There’s a lot of assumptions being made. I also see that the employer told them that the camp toilet or going through the balcony would be necessary. But the OP chose to do the balcony thing, that’s deliberately making their own life more difficult. The employers also told the OP they would prefer that they don’t attend protests or that if they do, they would ask her partner to isolate them from them in order to keep working, or not come to work for 2 weeks. This was clearly laid out from the beginning. The OP considers themselves to be friends with the employer. So, a friend says “we’d prefer you not go to protests, but if you choose to, we’d prefer to isolate from you or your partner to protect ourselves” They laid out the consequences of their actions.

                  March 12, 2021 at 8:01 am

                  Right – they’re not asking us to do anything they aren’t doing themselves.
                  The employers are limiting what they are doing. They asked to limit social gathering to with those that work from home. Every time the OP responds, the story changes a little bit.

                19. Anon Lawyer*

                  MLW, I think you’re ignoring a lot of context in these threads about the power dynamic and emotional relationships here.

                20. MLW*

                  Anon, you mean like a friend asking another friend to please not go to large gatherings, and then being upset by their being consequences for their actions?

                  The employer has every right to make these crazy rules. Sounds to me like there’s been overreaction on both sides. Their also needs to be some work relationship/life relationship separation. The OP seems to feel guilty because they are friends with the employer. The employer is also applying these rules to all employees, it’s not specific manipulation of these two.

                21. Natalie*

                  @MLW, it doesn’t need to be specific manipulation of these two people to be inappropriate and unreasonable? Lots of bad employers are equally opportunity shitty.

                  You’re right that they have a legal right to ask for this. But the OP seems to be struggling with whether or not this is some kind of appropriate request they should honor, and IMO it very, very much is not.

                22. EchoGirl*

                  @MLW: OP has clarified that it was not hyperbole and that she did actually use the ladder setup for a few weeks. Technically she volunteered it but the employer should really have shut that down as too much to ask.

                23. MLW*

                  @Natalie, I agree that it’s a ridiculous request.

                  Even with all of the OP’s responses, I’m struggling to get a full grasp of what’s actually going on. First they said it’s a low paying part time job, but then it pays a few dollars over the living wage and the partner is able to choose their own hours. Then it’s the partner wants to work because it’s good for their mental health, not necessarily because they need the job. There’s a conversation the OP and their partner need to have, because this job seems to be a strain on the OP’s mental health.

                  OP also stated there’s three non negotiables in play: The employer’s risk position, the OP’s WANTING to go to protests, and the partner’s WANTING to have a job. One of those things doesn’t seem like the others.

                24. OP#1*

                  @MLW: The system and my situation have changed over time; let me know any other aspects you’re confused about and I can address them? I’m here to try to get help / an outside perspective on all of this, and it’s definitely been a lot to explain over comments so I’m happy to clarify as needed in order for people to have the information they need to give me useful advice.

                  They did back off on the balcony and toilet requirements, but – rationally or not – I saw them as very real and went ahead and ordered a toilet as well as climbing gear, because I was also worried about this disabled person getting infected, because I’m not good at standing up for myself, because I’ve lived in stranger conditions and I knew it was kind of weird but not so weird. The fact that everyone thinks it was hyperbole is a good wake-up call. The family did say they appreciated me using the balcony even though they didn’t require it and I think the restriction changed around when other people in their household needed to quarantine for their own reasons.

                  At the beginning of covid, the employer added one paid quarantine period to the sick-day budget. I didn’t prod my partner on more details as time went on, so I don’t know how much of those 3 months were paid or unpaid; my partner told me he was dipping into savings, which I know is what savings are for – and he’s privileged to have them – but that’s why we set February as the end date. He needed to start making money again. Sick leave doesn’t renew until July, which I thought would be fine because I knew my partner and the person he cares for would be able to vaccines before then.

                  I was hopeful I wouldn’t have to quarantine at all in March and April, so I had been holding off on getting a new place…but then I helped out a friend in crisis at the end of February and had to take a car to get there, so I just bit the bullet and got a new place, even though I knew the vaccines were coming soon for my partner, because I wanted to get a little distance from my partner and this household while planning the next move.

                  I agree my partner needs to take over conversation with the employer. The CDC guidelines for vaccinated folks just came out and the employer knows I need a response by April 1 but have stated they don’t want to feel rushed into decisions and are busy until the weekend, so I haven’t heard anything definitive yet but am trying to prepare. I heard some things in our preliminary conversation that gave me pause, hence this preemptive post to try to figure out what I need to tell my partner and what he needs to tell them when the larger conversation happens, without me.

                  Right, I didn’t join protests in September and October (I didn’t get so much paid work done either, due to the concussion…).

                  So yes, it was my partner’s choice to take the time off, but the conditions of when he needs to quarantine or not weren’t his choice. Which is an employer’s prerogative – but it was definitely closer in emotional nature to an FMLA-esque thing (taking care of me – the concussion was a wake-up call for us; when protests started again he wanted to be there for me) than a vacation or sabbatical.

                  Which, you’re right, is different from a quarantine – but if he worked for a different employer, with different conditions, he would have been able to both take care of me and go to work. And from November – January, both of us tried as hard as we could to follow all the rules, but if something came up we had a mutual agreement that we’d stay together because of how hard the summer had been on me (again, I tried to follow all the rules during that period, but in July and August I was in quarantine every week except one). So there was a 2-week period in December where he was able to work but otherwise it was largely-unpaid time off.

                  I will say the grocery store thing is actually coming into play more than I initially realized – no, it’s not something I need directly, but because I’m not allowed to be exposed to people who also go to the grocery store, it limits the pool of people who I could socialize with or get rides from beyond my partner – since even if someone’s not going to work, a grocery store would mark them as someone who’s taking too large of a covid risk.

                  If my partner didn’t have this job, he’d be on unemployment – and he’d need that money. If I were in his position, I would have taken the unemployment long ago, and probably found another job by now. But he’s not me. I don’t think he’s behaving rationally, and I can understand how his choices don’t make sense from the outside; his fear about having to search for something else doesn’t make sense to me either. But that doesn’t mean money isn’t a factor here. The emotional components of the job – and of job searching, for him, combined with anxiety and depression – are the reason he’s staying in *this* job. He definitely needs *a* job and it’s been hard for him to let go of this one.

                  My partner’s quarantined twice to visit a friend and once to go to the dentist. Otherwise when he hasn’t been able to go to work it’s been because of exposure to me (or for something the two of us did together, that he wouldn’t have done if he didn’t know me).

                  I think of “living wage” as still pretty low wage, especially when there aren’t many of the traditional benefits – but you’re right, I might be conflating the pay with the number of hours. “Living wage” assumes 40-hours a week, so he’s definitely not making enough to live on in our area. He doesn’t want more hours in this job – it’s extremely draining, especially because he has his own disability – but even if he did, they aren’t available. Not because the employer is withholding hours, but because by nature – “we want multiple caregivers, we can afford 40 hours a week” – it’s not a full-time role. He definitely needs to be working; I think the reason he’s working here is because his mental health makes job searching hard. You’re right that it’s taking a toll on my mental health – and he’s started making some progress as a result but we had both hoped he wouldn’t have to because the vaccines would resolve things.

                25. OP#1*

                  @ Natalie / Jackalope: I think we don’t have a shared vocabulary around covid – e.g. when I said “limiting contacts” folks aren’t going to the store or the dentist (or if they are, they’re quarantining afterwards. So, they’re not being hypocrites or operating under a different set of restrictions – but the impact of those restrictions on them still looks different than on me, because my friend circle has different constraints or is making different choices.

                26. Physics Tech*

                  @OP#1 I know you’re not asking for relationship advice, but I’m not sure where your partner is okay with you paying more to accommodate his work schedule?

                  Shouldn’t that be a cost that they take on? It’s… intense to me that your partner’s employer’s are making you and they take on this increased cost of separate housing. I’d almost be willing to bet that the 40% of the apartment you’re paying, if just he paid it would bring him under the minimum wage for every month.

                  Maybe worth thinking about when framing what this job is costing you, outside of emotional costs which are very real just sometimes harder for me to quantify.

              1. ambrosia*

                I don’t think you’ve read all the OP’s comments. She said the employer required but eventually backed off.

                She’s also not allowed to have contact with people who are doing their own grocery runs.

                1. MLW*

                  March 12, 2021 at 3:03 pm

                  So I did actually buy a camping toilet, but luckily never had to use it. The balcony system, which included a ladder, was recommended but not required; I did use it for a few weeks because I could see the enormous strain the family was under and I thought if me using the balcony system gave them piece of mind, it would be worth doing.

                  OP was also the one that suggested the ladder system. It was never required. It sounds like this idea was shut down from the beginning. The employer never required the balcony system, although they did say they appreciated it. But there’s a big difference between the employer requiring it and the OP going above and beyond. And remember, the OP doesn’t work there, none of this stuff was being directed to them. It was the partner, these two just chose to handle it by having the OP make all of the sacrifices.

                  The grocery run thing the OP said a few times was a hard one, but one they could live with.

                2. Physics Tech*

                  @MLW it seems that the issue is less about the past sacrifices (which are extreme!), but there is no end in sight for this despite their partner and the client having the vaccine.

                  If you read Jackalope’s comments I think that captures more of the emotional manipulation and abuse of power dynamics that’s been going on.

                  Your questions are interesting, but I just want to point out that your attempts to normalize what the client is asking of OP is only going to lead them to stay in a situation that has been pretty untenable for a year, never mind for an undefined period of time going forward.

                  The client is asking for many concessions without making the same concession to quarantine at all (look at OP’s most recent response to my comments below), and that is really not normal for a job that is not full time and not high paying.

                3. MLW*

                  Read the OP’s comments, they said that the employer has not been hypocritical with the rules, they’ve been holding themselves to the same rules. As far as the visiting friends, just because they have friends that meet the conditions and the OP doesn’t, doesn’t mean that they aren’t following the same rules.

                  The most recent thing is that the employer is going to have a discussion with their employees to discuss changes. This does not, and should not, involve the OP. They don’t work there.

                  I’m not trying to defend the employer or say they are being reasonable with their requests. I don’t believe they are. But as a private operation, they have the right to, as long as it’s within the law. There’s been nothing about the partner making less than minimum wage, not sure where you got that idea. The employer is willing to work with the partner to still get their hours and is open to more changes. You do need to separate the work relationship and friend relationship. I don’t entirely buy the idea that they are taking advantage of their friendship to ask ridiculous things of them. I’d agree that there’s some manipulation

                4. OP#1*

                  So it’s really hard for me to see the ways in which things haven’t been fair and this entire “talk to strangers on the Internet about it” thing has been a process of going “oh, things weren’t that bad” to “oh wait they sort of were” which is a very autistic thing too tbh: they were bending the rules a little for their friends – if their friend visited with someone else, they’d avoid each other for 2 weeks after the last time the *friend* broke one of the rules, instead of counting the visit with the friend itself as an exposure. But yes in general for me the friend stuff only stung because it highlighted how when you have more money, you have more friends who can control their covid exposure (that’s not the only factor in controlling exposure, obviously, but it’s a significant one).

                  Commenters definitely misinterpreted what I meant by “limiting contacts” and I tried to clarify but it might have gotten lost.

                  Update from another spot in the thread (oh nesting…): “Okay update: my partner talked to the employers (on his own) and told me they’d come up with “a solution.” The solution is…they’ll have my partner do yard work or light cleaning in the home, depending on what sort of exposure I had. That way, no income’s lost. But, it’s obviously a dramatically different job. They said he’d still have the same hours but I don’t see how that’s possible – especially if it’s raining or something, or if stuff really heats up and there’s quarantine for weeks and weeks, and he runs out of yardwork tasks to do…

                  So I sat down and showed him some of this thread, and we looked up the unemployment requirements together (he doesn’t qualify based on income over the past year – it already wasn’t a lot of money and then all the unpaid quarantines on top of that – but it looks like if the employer certifies that the workplace is closed due to covid he can still get some?), and I’m putting him in touch with my social worker friend to try to apply.

                  He went back to the employers and asked what things would get easier now that there’s a vaccine and their reaction was “oh, we’re under less emotional stress now, so talking about covid risks will be easier” but…that’s different from a specific commitment to honoring what my partner and I have been doing by actually making some changes to the set-up. They’re going through a process with the rest of the household where they all set agreements about risk – they said they’d go along with whatever the household decided on, since they aren’t willing to quarantine from the household. So now the chain has changed from me-my partner-disabled person to me-my partner-disabled person-unvaccinated caregiver to me-my partner-disabled person-unvaccinated caregiver- unvaccinated household member…

                  They asked my partner whether he felt like he’d been mistreated and he told them he’d get back to them.”

                  They are going through a risk budgeting process that I’m tracking the outcome of because I do want to be able to spend time with the disabled person at the center of this someday…

          2. MLW*

            OP is also choosing their activism over family. If you’re upset about not being able to spend time together, stop choosing activities that require you to be apart from each other. The partner’s employer laid out rules, even if they are extreme, and the OP continues to choose an option where the partner’s employer says they need to isolate. The company has also provided funds to alleviate some of the expenses. Sounds like going above and beyond. Maybe it’s just me, but if I had a company where an employee’s partner continued to knowingly break that rule, causing extra financial burden for them, I’m not sure that I would continue to show empathy towards the situation.

            1. OP#1*

              When I decided I wanted to start going to protests – which yes, I’m prioritizing over seeing my partner, just as he’s prioritizing work over seeing me – I sat down with the family to talk about how that would work and we came up with these rules together, with the idea that we’d revisit them pending vaccines (when you work in private homes, boundaries get fuzzy – it really should have been my partner talking with them, I realize now – but they’re friends of mine as well). So it’s not me continuing to break rules or financially burdening them beyond what all of us agreed to. The thing that’s changed is I believe the unvaccinated family members have a little flexibility to distance from my partner while he’s working in their home if they don’t want to get covid, without having to give up interacting with the vaccinated family members. (That distancing is above and beyond what the CDC calls for in the case of households with no unvaccinated high-risk members, which theirs now is). I’m worried that even if they agree with me that the vaccinated person is no longer at risk of severe illness – which they seem to – they’ll say that they don’t want to have to stay 6 feet away from my partner while he’s working in order to protect themselves – even though the outcome of that is that he or I have to give up something important to us (whether it’s my activism, his job, or spending unmasked / unsocially-distanced time together indoors).

              1. MLW*

                Then it sounds like a relationship issue more than an employer issue. I get that activism is important, but choosing optional volunteer work (going to protests) is not equivalent to going to work to provide for yourself. But, the issue is, the employer has laid out rules, you and your partner need to communicate and decide how to handle it. Is the employer being extreme, sure, but that’s their choice. They also tried to accommodate by providing money to house you separate and providing additional time off. I didn’t mean a financial burden on the employer, I meant on you. They offered additional funds to cover a place to stay.

                As far as the vaccine goes, it doesn’t guarantee the recipient will never get covid, they also don’t know if a vaccinated person can still be a carrier. There’s a lot of unknowns still and if they want to be overly cautious, that’s their choice.

                You appear to have overstepped when you went to his employer, as well. Your partner needs to be the one talking to them about work related issues, not you.

                1. OP#1*

                  Yes, we started couples counseling at the start of the pandemic and are trying to work on it! The employer came to me, but based on your advice and others on this thread I definitely will have my partner handle this next discussion coming up.

                  The employer has stated that they believe covid infection post-vaccine will be mild and they’re not concerned about that. The carrier issue didn’t come up until very recently – I had mistakenly assumed that they were most concerned about the high-risk person, and I had initially envisioned I could maybe have a less-strenuous quarantine process (e.g., I had floated something like a negative test would allow me to quarantine for 1 week instead of 2, I could wear a mask and move around my home a little more, exposures like cars wouldn’t count if local case loads were low). Then, the CDC came out with the guidance that vaccines prevent transmission to a pretty significant degree, and I was thinking even if it’s imperfect the fact that there’s multiple vaccinated people before it can get to a unvaccinated person in the household should be enough of a buffer. That’s new information that I didn’t plan on having when I was trying to envision what post-vaccine life would look like.

                  You’re right that they get to be the ones to decide how much caution to take, and I do wish I had sat them down to say “one day, when a vaccine is available, what will it mean?” instead of accepting or clarifying “we know this is hard, but there is an end-date”.

              2. Temperance*

                I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone in my home who lived in close quarters with someone who had been interacting with others for optional reasons, in close quarters. I realize that protesting doesn’t feel “optional” to you, but speaking from the perspective of a person with a disability dependent upon others for care, I wouldn’t want someone who had been potentially exposed around me.

                1. Casper Lives*

                  That’s fine. Are you paying them around the clock since you’re controlling their activities around the clock? Sounds like they’re working for you 24/7.

                2. OP#1*

                  I really appreciate this perspective – the disabled person in this situation is nonverbal (in that she doesn’t use words / signs to communicate) so my partner and I can’t ask her directly about her feelings. Her caregivers have always justified precautions based on whether she’d be at risk, and the switch from “we don’t think she is now that she’s vaccinated, but we still are” threw me. Still, when I’m being more gracious, I know me distancing from my partner is very different from a person who’s dependent on care having fewer caregivers – even when we’re talking about their risk, it’s still in her interest.

                3. Disabled anon*

                  I am disabled and have finally given up on getting a home aide because in my area, most of the ones I qualify for (through IHSS) live in the homeless shelter. Yes, the shelter takes precautions, but it’s still a congregate living situation with tons of people who are out all day doing whatever with whoever. (And the shelters get bed bugs and it is so not worth the risk of bedbugs to have someone else vacuum.) I would still be uncomfortable knowing that my home aide was riding transit, visiting other homes, and that the IHSS pay is too low to have much expectation of how responsible they will be for social distancing off duty. (If they didn’t live in a shelter, they probably have multiple roommates and share a room.)

                4. Disabled anon*

                  Learning from OP#1 that the person being cared for does not have a means of communication is significant in this situation. They can’t report any early signs of COVID–general “not feeling well” or losing their sense of smell, etc. I believe one of the reasons people from the DD community who have caregivers have such a high risk of death is that it’s more difficult to determine when they need medical intervention. They would need to be displaying symptoms serious enough to be observed by caregivers. This makes it clearer to me why the family is being so strict about caregivers’ COVID exposure.

                  Also, I hope the person’s family is keeping up to date on advances in communication methods for nonspeaking people. Unless they are unconscious, there are more and more ways to communicate.

                5. OP#1*

                  @Disabled anon: Thanks for your perspective! I’m sorry you haven’t been able to access aides in your area. Yes, the nonspeaking part has definitely been a huge factor in me seeing this person as vulnerable and being willing to spend time away from my partner to make sure they’re protected while still accessing care. And re: communication: I’ve talked to the family about AAC and they were looking into insurance options for covering it.

              3. Anon Lawyer*

                Temperance, at that point, you probably just need to accept that you can’t have a caretaker in your home. I know a lot of people who have hired caretakers for elderly family members and also nannies during the Pandemic – it’s not an easy balance, but you actually need to accept that they will have social contact outside of their employer’s family.

              4. TootsNYC*

                Protest comes at a cost. The civil rights marchers had broken bones and even death. You have isolation.

                There were protesters who couldn’t take the physical risks; they worked behind the scenes, enabling those who were most visible.

                You are making this choice here–own it. The infectiousness of the coronavirus and the deadliness of COVID-19 make this an unusual situation, and we ALL have to bend to it.
                We’ve been doing it for a while, and some things are easing, so it’s easy to get blasé about the risks. Don’t.

                Also: until everyone in that household has been vaccinated, I think they’re reasonable to insist on restrictions. An acquaintance of mine was a perfectly healthy guy, and he ended up in an induced coma for a week.
                Your partner is breathing out and touching things in their home. Even though he’s wearing a mask, masks aren’t 100%, not even N95’s (hence “95”).

                1. Anon Lawyer*

                  Honestly, you need to stop. This lecturing is cruel to the LW and detached from the actual situation.

                2. Physics Tech*

                  Yeah I agree @Anon Lawyer, TootsNYC is really being extremely unfair and cruel to OP.

                3. OP#1*

                  I have isolation *plus* some other risks that I haven’t really gone into here. I think that’s been a big component of this situation, actually – I’ll go out and go through something really scary and traumatic, and then head home, knowing that when I get there I won’t be able to have the comfort of physical contact with my partner. I definitely take ownership of the fact that I could take a step back (I’ve addressed a few times why behind-the-scenes doesn’t work as well for me, so it would truly be more or less a step back, not a step into something else).

                  I don’t think I’m being blasé about the risk of covid, though I do understand that people should be allowed to consent to what they’re exposed to. I really just wish that concern had surfaced earlier on because the marker wasn’t previously “until everyone in that household has been vaccinated.”

                4. Librarian1*

                  I disagree. I don’t think they’re being reasonable at all. The people at the highest-risk are vaccinated and we know that the vaccine greatly reduces transmission.

        10. TootsNYC*

          I think really the restriction IS on the employee. He needs to be separated from them.
          It’s coming out as “the LW needing to be separate from him,” but the goal is to keep him away from germs LW might have gotten.

          If the LW and their partner decided to do the isolation by having HIM stay in the bedroom, etc., that would be fine.
          It’s really a matter of semantics. The control they want is “I don’t want my employee to come in contact with someone who’s been potentially exposed like that.”

        11. JM60*

          It sounds like the OP’s employer is asking their employee, not the their employee’s partner (OP) to isolate, to isolate. That does not require the OP to isolate at all, at least in principle. (That being said, they should probably provide lodging expenses for their employee to isolate outside their home.)

    3. Analyst Editor*

      I don’t think the employers are being reasonable, especially given that your partner is vaccinated plus you having a negative test. They can’t hermetically seal your partner in with his/her charge, after all.
      At the same time, I agree with this comment. If you’re going to be doing something risky, you have to understand that people will judge you for the risks, no matter how noble you think your cause is. If you were making it known you’re out protesting, they would be wary of contact with you, especially at the height of the pandemic and the fear associated with it, and plenty of video and photos circulating, with far from everyone in masks or distancing at these events.

    4. Sue*

      I’m not really clear on the living situation here. Do the OP and her partner live in the employer’s home? If not, how do they know what the OP is doing? I understand this more if they’re all sharing a house but if not, maybe just don’t share so much information.

      1. Julia*

        I think they employers just trust that OP truly isolates at home, which I would personally have a hard time doing, no matter how hard OP seems to try.

      2. OP#1*

        Some of the caregivers do live there, and I used to live there and work there as a caregiver, so it’s one of those “these are people I’m personally close to” – which I think comes about a lot with care work, especially when it’s in someone’s home. But, it’s also a job requirement: they are directly asking my partner to share this information.

        1. Anon Lawyer*

          Honestly, this is ringing a *lot* of alarm bells for me about this situation. It seems like there’s a lot going on here that involves personal manipulation and control by these people in an unhealthy way. Is there an uninvolved third party in your life you can talk to about all this?

          1. OP#1*

            Yes, the friends I’ve talked to have been urging me to get out for a while – but they’re not caregivers or disabled (and they’re not able to offer me a place to stay) so it’s taken me until this latest vaccine question to really take them seriously and start soliciting more outside perspectives.

            1. Sam*

              This is kind of scary! There aren’t many situations where I’d urge someone to get out, unless I was actually worried about their wellbeing.

              This, the fact that you’ve tried to downplay climbing in through your own window, the fact that you’ve questioned your ability to evaluate these things properly, the fact that every reply you’ve made does seem to be going some way to minimize the degree to which this is outside the norm…

              I want to strongly, strongly second the idea that you need someone outside of your social, family, etc. groups to give you a bit more perspective on this.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I don’t know if you’re still reading this but on the offchance that you are, I second Sam – I think you really, really need to seek out outside perspectives on this (and not from your partner) because everything you are saying is very concerning to me.

              Through all of your comments I am seeing you going to really extreme lengths to allow other people’s feelings and desires to take precedence. That can lead to some very messed-up situations. Please take some time to think about this, without the minimising and overthinking and putting everyone else’s needs before your own.

              (And, I’m sorry, but where is your partner in all of this? This is not even your job! It’s his job! If my job created a situation where a partner of mine felt like they needed to climb into the house through the window, I would not be okay with that. At all. This is basic respect.)

              1. OP#1*

                I did read this and appreciate it! Yes, I’ve known for a while that I’m over-accommodating and have been trying to work on it – one thing that’s hard about this whole situation is I really let down my guard around this family, because I wanted to work more on trusting people / asking people for help during a time when I was grieving and trust was hard to come by. So it’s been hard to tell myself “okay, some boundaries *are* healthy, though.”

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          To be honest, I’m seeing a whole parade of red flags here. I agree with Anon Lawyer… is there someone in your life you can talk to about this? The degree of control they’re expecting (and that you and your partner are allowing) sounds very unhealthy, unproductive, and out of touch with reasonable boundaries for employment.

        3. bluephone*

          Your partner could be getting a better-paying caretaking job that’s much less “it’s 1795 and my employers, the Lord and Lady Aristocrats, control my life from sunup to sundown” than his current employers. That you thought about climbing gear and camping toilets as a solution (even jokingly) is a sign that it’s all gone too far. Your partner’s employer ought to be paying him for sick time and all this quarantine time. And/or paying him more, and/or giving him more hours. What they’re asking would still be a pretty blatant overreach but at least the money would partially make up for it. This family is absolutely taking advantage of your partner’s (and yours) concern and caring, and couching it in histrionic “BUT TEH COVID!!11” excuses to justify it.

          1. MLW*

            The big key here is caretaking isn’t the partner’s field. This is a job that the partner does simply because they want to work, not that they need the job. Haven’t read anything from OP to suggest the job is anything but a time filler.

            1. OP#1*

              I think some of my comments were misinterpreted, partly because the word “need” is a tricky one – for me, “need” is “if I don’t have this, I’ll be living on the streets” because that’s where bottom is for me, but other people have more robust safety nets. The job is meeting non-money needs for my partner, and there are mental health barriers to the process of getting other jobs. My own personal take is that he should go on unemployment while he’s job-searching and be less selective about which jobs he takes, and I’ve expressed that to him. He definitely can’t get by without some sort of income.

              1. OP#1*

                You’re right that if he were offered more hours he wouldn’t take them, and I do think the commenters saying that paying someone more money entitles you to police them more are well-meaning (and correct) but yes protesting is important enough to me that I wouldn’t give it up just because my partner was making more money (and fwiw he wouldn’t want me to).

                1. OP#1*

                  *well-meaning (and correct): I mean, ideally no one gets policed, but if you are policing someone more money is warranted, is what I think people are saying. You’re right that that theory doesn’t align with the realities of my partner’s situation and the choices we’re making: when mental health and disability are in play, there’s other considerations beyond just “how much does this job pay?” – I might tell my partner I can’t handle the mental health toll of his decisions much longer, but that won’t make obtaining a new job easy for him. It’s a rock and a hard place, that money wouldn’t necessarily move – though at least it would fully cover the cost of me staying somewhere else…

                2. Beth*

                  wow that’s some word choice about the employers after talking about going to protests
                  they’re not “policing” anyone, they are asking for honesty, trusting that’s the truth, and explaining what their parameters are for employment

                3. OP#1*

                  Right, I don’t use that word lightly. And I think the requests for information – which a lot of people here have been reacting to – are less of an issue than the strict rules *and* the lack of information about their situation and what they’re willing to do (some of which is on my partner to be better at asking questions – but I do think it’s incumbent on employers to explain workplace conditions and norms)

        1. mf*

          This is a very unnecessary comment. OP has repeatedly said she and her partner have been honest with the family. She values honesty and is not going to lie to them.

          1. Disabled anon*

            I think that TootsNYC meant to respond to some of the comments that DID say OP#1 should lie because freedom or something.

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      The thing is- LW1 doesn’t work for them. LW1 is not their employee. That’s the issue.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I think what they’re actually asking is that LW’s partner – their employee – does not come into contact with LW. But the practical upshot of this is that LW quarantines themself.

    6. allathian*

      This one’s really tough. I do wonder what the employer would say if the LW had a customer-facing job in healthcare or retail, etc.? Would they force their employee’s partner to quit working or move out?

      That said, taking unavoidable risks of getting exposed in one’s job is one thing, taking the same risks by going to public protests, no matter how laudable the cause, is another matter entirely. It’s an avoidable risk.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Probably not, but they probably would terminate their employee since they’re the link to the potential danger.

      2. Beth*

        It sounds like OP considers their activism a kind of job–a commitment that they can’t just drop–regardless of it being unpaid. I don’t think that’s unreasonable; this kind of organizing and activism is labor, being part of a group doing that work is a commitment, and the lack of pay is more about what capitalism considers valuable than the demands of the work itself.

        1. allathian*

          That’s certainly true.

          That said, it doesn’t look like there are any good solutions to this. Either the LW has to quarantine and limit their life considerably so that the partner can work, or the partner has to quit their job, or they have to separate. Even the last option will be difficult, if they can’t afford to live alone.

          1. Mx*

            Or they don’t have to disclose LW’s activities. She doesn’t work for them !
            Separating because of an employer? No way. Is the employer going to pay for a second accommodation?
            We had to hire care workers for my gran. We would have never asked such a thing from the people we employed. This is abusive ! It’s good enough if the employees follow the restrictions set by the government.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, you’d think so. I guess I should have put an /s at the end of my previous comment.

              I don’t really see any other solution than for the caregiver and client to isolate together in the client’s home. Even that won’t probably be tenable for more than a few months at most, provided the client has a room to spare and is able to pay for essentially 24/7 care.

              1. OP#1*

                Yes, I was trying to figure out what a comparable situation would be. I’ve seen people ask au pairs or nanny share / learning pod hires to limit contacts. Those folks are getting paid more and work more hours than my partner – who only works a few hours a day – but I bet many of them have been running up against these “what boundaries to have with an employer when it comes to exposure?” questions and I’d love to hear from them. I guess this is also a little different from the newly-offered positions because my partner was working there pre-pandemic, so all of us have had to negotiate this as the situation evolves instead of having some rules laid out from the get-go.

                They have provided some funds for me to stay elsewhere, but that still means I don’t get to see my partner after a protest exposure or car ride, and it doesn’t come close to covering the cost of housing in the area, especially. I know a lot of people whose jobs call for them to be away from their loved ones so I’ve been trying to interpret it as that sort of situation, but again most of the time with those sorts of roles you know a little of what you’re getting into ahead of time, and the second accommodation is fully covered.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  In my area, getting anyone to show up for anything is a bfd. We are sparsely populated compared to other areas. But, people are also more apt to check in on each other. So people had set up their own pods and stayed with their pods. And everyone realizes that the likelihood of finding a professional to come is low- this works in to the understanding also.

                  My friend’s husband was very sick. (He has since passed away.) At the onset of Covid he was strident- NO ONE in the house EVER. This threw all his care onto my friend-not a long term plan. To get him to agree to having the scant professionals available here to come into the house was a huge thing. He had to agree in the end though because my friend was going to end up in the hospital if she did not get more helping hands. Then Husband would have to go to a nursing home and this is the very thing Husband was trying to avoid. (Wise choice because of nursing home issues in NYS.)

                  My friend almost cried tears of joy any time some one showed up. Friend and Hubby did the best they could with masks and sanitizing. No one asked to use their bathroom, no food or drink in the house and so on. While the husband did pass away, he remained Covid-free until the end.

                  What I am picking up on in this post here is that availability of help matters and so does ability to pay. If someone has the ability to pay that gives them some sense of having a right to say how things are handled. In my example, my friends were relying on insurance and other sources to pay for the help they did eventually receive. They did not have the budget for out-of-pocket expenses. This meant, if Friend had to get groceries, they relied on unpaid friends to sit with the husband while she shopped. They picked carefully and hoped for the best. Just an awful situation. Not everything can be a Level One priority because it’s physically impossible to meet all the priorities.

                2. AnonForThis*

                  OP I wasn’t sure if you’d consider nannying to be similar, but since you asked, every person I know who has hired a nanny or babysitter, or who has continued to have their nanny or babysitter work during the pandemic, established guidelines together with the sitter for what every member of both households would do. Since most transmission has been within households for months, it’s not that important whether it’s the babysitter themselves doing a high-risk activity or another member of their household. It goes both ways–my doctor friends with nannies posed a huge risk to their caregivers so those conversations were all about protecting the caregivers and their families.

                  They worked out a range of solutions–sometimes the doctors isolated from their partners/kids/nannies for weeks at a time; sometimes the nanny threw in her lot with the family and isolated from her partner. Some caregivers ended up podding with the family and bringing their kids into the pod, so that meant both the employer’s kids and nanny’s kids had no contact outside of each other.

                  When we hired a babysitter for 15 hours a week last spring, all the adults discussed exactly what our contacts were and that included her live-in boyfriend. She updated us on their activities every week, and we did the same. I didn’t actually ask her to do this, but it was understood that any contact he had was her contact as well, and we would have expected her to stay home for two weeks if he had the type of contact you describe encountering at the protest. (Now if she was vaccinated…..probably not. But no one in my household is high risk.)

                  So many commenters here are saying how unreasonable your partner’s employers are, but they don’t seem that way to me. They are strict but within the realm of normal for what my elderly relatives and colleagues are doing. I realize this is quite regional and they might be anomaly in some parts of the country.

                  I’m sorry it’s having such a big effect on you. You sound like such a thoughtful and caring person! They are lucky to have you and your partner in their lives and I hope everyone is vaccinated soon. Best of luck.

                3. ten four*

                  You know, I think the actual issue here is that this couple isn’t paying your husband enough to make this all worthwhile. The ethical questions about quarantine, risk management, activism, honesty and care are interesting to think about, but if I’m reading the comments right the logistical facts are:

                  + OP’s partner works just a few hours a day, rather than full time
                  + The pay rate is low, and the total paycheck is also low
                  + The client has stopped paying OP’s husband for quarantine time, which means partner is going unpaid in order to adhere to the client’s rules.

                  I know that caregiving work is shamefully underpaid, but it seems to me that OP’s partner has an opportunity here to take their excellent ethics to a different caregiving job that offers more hours, better pay, and fewer restrictions. I would strongly suggest at least looking for other jobs with the goal of getting a better picture of the range of options available.

                  It sounds like you know this client and care very much about their health and wellbeing. I want you to care just as much for your OWN health and wellbeing! It frankly doesn’t sound like the client is thinking past their own privilege. I won’t fault their requirements, but they ought to be translating their high need for safety into good pay, good hours, and paid quarantine time.

                4. kt*

                  But I think part of the point is that OP was fine with this while people were not vaccinated. Now we have:

                  * High risk person vaccinated
                  * other partner vaccinated ?
                  * LW’s partner vaccinated
                  * person three in high-risk household not vaccinated
                  * LW not vaccinated

                  So on a risk-mitigation scale here we’re looking at dramatically lower risk of illness for the vaccinated people, probably lowered risk of transmission by LW’s partner, and still risk for the unvaccinated person in the household. And all the contacts with angry people and car rides are masked on the part of the LW. Much of the question is, at what point is enough risk mitigation enough? LW did all the quarantining for a year. Now with the majority of characters vaccinated, what gets to change? That’s the negotiation, the compromise.

                5. Jack Russell Terrier*

                  This is where privilege and money come in. My B&SIL are rich. They paid their nanny her full salary to stay home for months. They did agree her daughter could move in with her – with a lot non-contact caveats.

                6. Dierdre*

                  Why can’t your partner use those funds to stay elsewhere? It sounds like he’s the main problem in forcing all the accommodations for his job onto you to be your burden. Has he said I’ll be the one to stay somewhere else, and told his employer he will need them to pay for that every time?

                7. OP#1*

                  @Dierdre: They gave enough to cover 60% of the cost but not 100% – the cost is high because we can’t find roommates who are following their requests (e.g. not going into grocery stores), so each of us would be paying for our own space.

            2. Grandia*

              They absolutely should not lie. That would be hugely unethical. If they aren’t willing to abide by the terms of employment, then he needs to quit the job. They don’t have to like these restrictions, but if they are asked to abide by them to work this job, they need to do so. You cannot put others at risk like that by lying, which is what failure to disclose would be in this situation.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              “Not disclosing” is really just lying, and that’s a huge violation of trust (and trust is so important in a caregiver role). If this family are making onerous demands on the OP/her partner then her partner should make the case to them that they are too onerous and ask them to change, or he can consider if he wants to keep working with them under those terms. Those are the honest things to do. But it would be really, really shitty to deceive this family into believing that OP/her partner are following these rules when they’re not.

            4. Sylvan*

              Please don’t hold information on possible exposure back from someone whose life depends on their safety from exposure. The vaccines are great news, but still, please don’t do that.

              1. OP#1*

                I would never! Especially because their life depends on it, and they’re vulnerable in other ways, but even for someone who’s not high-risk informed consent is important. I was just been hoping (partly because that’s what had been stated) that when the high-risk person had been vaccinated there would be more options when it came to informing and protecting other household members – even if they don’t want to risk covid, because anyone can die from it whether they’re high-risk or not, I’d been thinking they could socially-distance my partner when he’s at-work there because they’re all able-bodied enough to be able to move quickly away and they can wear masks (the disabled person here can’t – it is a real thing, for some people!)

            5. Nicotene*

              Yes I’m sorry, we had a series of around-the-clock caregivers for my grandfather at the end of his life. We asked that they follow the standard precautions that were in place (it was a terrible flu season) but we were not paying them nearly enough to try to police their movements and lives the way OP is describing here. I have friends with nannies of vulnerable young babies; of course they would love to control everything those nannies do outside of work. But you can’t. You just can’t do that.

        2. OP#1*

          Yes, I definitely see it as a commitment – it’s fair to talk about commitment to activism vs. commitment to protests, since there are a variety of tactics activists can use, but protests are much more accessible to me as an autistic person. Early on in the pandemic (before protests, but when folks were organizing mutual aid efforts) I tried my best to contribute virtually instead of showing up to in-person distributions, especially because we didn’t know what the risks were. But I can’t drive or cook, which ruled out some low- and no-contact support roles (I did acquire the ability to call people on the phone, at least, and biking, like I mentioned). But those virtual / administrative roles have been much harder for me to show up for (it’s important work and I really admire the people who do it, and I know in-person protests aren’t accessible for many), especially because I started a new job and really don’t have many executive function spoons to spare, whereas “show up at this time, at this place” is much more doable. I’ve been working really hard lately and I’m getting a little better at the skill of tracking tasks, but it still won’t be the thing that comes easily for me, whereas I’ve been able to be more effective at in-person events.

    7. Beth*

      I get why the employers are asking this–it is scary! But realistically, unless they’re providing a fully separate residence for their employee, covering all costs related to it (e.g. if he and OP suddenly need 2 cars because they’re living in separate residences now), and providing sufficiently high compensation to make “never see anyone but us” something he’s willing to agree to, this isn’t something an employer can reasonably demand.

      Employees are people, not robots. People are going to have at least one or two contact points, even if they’re minimizing significantly (in this case, a partner/housemate). Their contact points are going to have their own jobs and such that branch out to other contact points; once again, even if they’re trying to minimize, most people can’t reasonably get to zero. I get all the reasons that this is scary! But it’s a reality of having non-part-of-the-household help during a pandemic. To get to that ‘no risk’ point, you’d need to basically hire and compensate someone for living by your requirements 24/7, which is a wildly different level than someone coming in for a few hours. It doesn’t sound like OP’s partner is in that kind of arrangement.

      1. Maggie*

        I’m with Sue. How on earth does the employer know these things? Stop telling them, problem solved. I’m not at all saying this callously. I am currently pregnant but not yet eligible for the vaccine in my state. My husband’s boss is a 70+ diabetic who has had toes amputated and is at incredibly high risk. My husband interacts with both of us daily and is essential worker in construction. He has gone to work the entire pandemic because he has to, and no one has gotten covid. This is NOT luck. He is meticulous, makes good choices, and at some times has walked off the job if other contractors were refusing to wear masks and/or maintain proper ventilation and 6-foot distances. If OP is making informed, diligent choices and her partner is making informed, diligent choices and people are vaccinated, what more can possibly be done?

        1. John*

          What more can be done is in events where she comes into close high risk contact with people, let them know so everyone can have an agreed upon procedure. OP tries to make them sound crazy by saying anytime they see someone, but it’s really times when they have unmasked people in close contact. And many who attended protests voluntarily decided to quarantine after them, it was widely recommended and endorsed.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            OP says somewhere in the thread, though, that they are also not ok with trips to the grocery store. This is about more than the protests and riding in a car.

            1. OP#1*

              Yes, though I’m actually okay with the grocery store thing – maybe because I have a lot of disabled friends, and the privilege of living in an area with farmer’s markets + CSAs + a grocery store right down the street that does curbside.

              1. OP#1*

                (e.g., my disabled friends aren’t going into stores, so it doesn’t seem unusual to me to ask to avoid that because many of the people I know are avoiding it – the implications of not hiring someone whose partner works at a grocery store, which is not my situation, have been a little more troubling to me)

      2. Harper the Other One*

        This is what jumped out at me too. If this position is like most caregiving positions, it does not pay well. (There are lots of reasons both good and bad why that is the case, but that’s besides the point.) And caregivers often already have very tough work conditions that they put up with because they do care about the people they serve. I don’t feel like it’s fair to push them to put restrictions on their partners on top of everything else.

        I can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone who is medically fragile in your home and be trying to balance all of these things – it must be so scary. But that doesn’t mean that you can overreach and start making excessive demands on employees’ families.

        1. OP#1*

          Yes, this doesn’t pay well and it’s part-time (but it’s my partner’s only job, so that bright line of employed / unemployed feels really hard for him to cross, beyond the financial implications which unemployment would alleviate somewhat). They’ve done what they can for us – offered the maximum sick leave possible and given me some money for housing (but not nearly enough for our expensive area) – but I had really been counting on the vaccine to lighten the strain on all of us.

          1. florence looking for machines*

            OP, this whole thing sounds really untenable and I’m amazed it hasn’t broken before now. They’re trying to enforce behavior that they can only do if someone lives in full-time, without actually having that or paying for it. Instead they’re controlling you (and not paying you for it, they’re paying partner. And not enough).

            I totally get that this is a job that your partner doesn’t want to leave, but. This is a lot. It’s untenable and they’re taking advantage of you. I fully get that they’re terrified of COVID, believe me, I have a lot of high-risk relatives, including two in nursing homes and we’re navigating all of that. But… what’s the deal, they can’t pay for it, so they’re trying to use social control to get what they’re not paying for? I’m amazed your partner and you have kept up with this job for this long. It doesn’t seem worth the pain and problems it’s causing you.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            If we place a dollar value on how much this job is eating at the both of you, then the numbers would show this job is a financial loss.

            Some jobs do this, they totally chew up an employee.

            1. Smishy*

              Yeah, there’s a response from OP somewhere in here that he’s using his savings to offset the impact of all this and OP then says “that’s what savings are for.” That kind of blew my mind. If you have to dig into your savings in order to keep working this job, that’s a problem. And that’s not what savings are for. This employer seems like they are very much taking advantage of their employee.

              1. OP#1*

                Yes I had been thinking of savings as “this is an emergency” – but seeing that everyone else expected the quarantines to be paid and was surprised when they weren’t has been helpful in realizing how Not Normal this is.

                1. Physics Tech*

                  Yeah this is super not normal, your job shouldn’t cost you money! Honestly it almost sounds illegal, in that it is putting your partner under minimum wage which is not alright anywhere in the US.

          3. Amy*

            I could understand this situation slightly more in the context of a full-time job. But not a part-time one.

          4. ten four*

            You know, you’ve said in a few spots that they’re paying the maximum sick leave possible but they AREN’T. There is no arbiter of sick leave forcing them to stop paying sick time. They are CHOOSING to not pay sick time, and to not pay your partner very well, and to only pay for a few hours a day. And they are choosing to require you and your partner to adhere to incredibly strict rules of behavior as a part of their low wages and low hours.

            If you were live-in help and paid for full time hours, then the level of control they are exerting on both you and your partner would make more sense and be more realistic because you’d be getting the financial benefit. As it is, they’re exerting huge amounts of control that massively benefit them and have a substantially negative impact on you. That isn’t ethical of them. It’s not kind or fair.

            My wish for you is to incorporate labor ethics into your moral framework. You don’t have to tie yourself in knots justifying your activism – that’s a choice people get to make for themselves! Your partner provides labor and deserves a fair wage. It’s fair that your clients want to maximize their safety. In order to do that, they need to pay their caregivers enough to make it worth their while. The situation you’re describing shows you and your partner making enormous sacrifices, and the client making none. That’s not a fair or ethical working arrangement.

            1. 124243*

              Yeah. This “maximum sick leave” line they’re giving you, OP, is nonsense. They could be paying your partner for the long periods of leave he’s forced to take because of their draconian rules, but they choose not to. They are exploiting you.

              And if they haven’t changed the rules at all even after everyone in the household but one person is vaccinated, when are they ever going to change the rules? Super-insanely-cautious people are gonna be super-insanely-cautious, and vaccines aren’t perfect. Have you asked them when this will end? Because I would be wondering if they’re EVER going to let you go back to a normal relationship with your partner. They are using your affection for them to manipulate you into submission.

                1. OP#1*

                  Admittedly, friends who live alone, work from home, are also getting curbside pickup, and have no exposure to anyone who’s not following those rules. It still smarts when I can’t see any of my folks – it’s part of why not being ale to see my partner is so terrifying, because I’ve been limited in the relationships I can cultivate under those constraints.

              1. OP#1*

                Yes, they said things would lessen after vaccines – but now that vaccines have come and things haven’t changed at all, I’m losing trust in that…

            2. Shan*

              I’m getting the sense there’s some real enmeshment between OP/Partner and the employers – OP used to work for them, has sat down with them to discuss Partner’s job, seems to be very familiar with them on a personal level, etc. I think working on boundaries with them, and looking at Partner’s job with a more critical eye, would be a good thing for you both, OP. Being compassionate and kind is wonderful! But it can also make it easy for others to take advantage of you.

              1. OP#1*

                Yep, that’s definitely a factor! And I care a lot about the disabled person all of this is intended to protect, too – I had really hoped I could stay in her life even after I wasn’t officially on the payroll anymore (and maybe I can – just not for a while).

            3. OP#1*

              That’s all true – thanks for this! I think the hard thing is that the job’s been a good fit for my partner (he didn’t need to apply for it) so it’s taken me longer to see “well, other people perceive low hours as the employer getting less say in how the employee lives their life” because it’s not like he’d take more hours if he were offered (it’s an extremely exhausting job and he’s doing the max he can as someone with a disability of his own) and it’s not like I’d stop doing activism if he made more money. But, if my partner’s able to get over the “apply for jobs” barrier – which is a big barrier! But he’s trying to break into a particularly-difficult field and I think the barrier would probably be less in other fields / in other kinds of work – there are other jobs that could work for him. The perceived lack of choice here is making it really hard to imagine being at another place, under better conditions – which means it’s hard to see how unreasonable these conditions are.

          5. Georgia*

            It really sounds like your partner not taking your needs into consideration is the issue. If he would prefer to take a low paying job for a few hours a week, and make you go to incredible lengths to isolate from him (rather than the other way around), when unemployment is a current option, then he is doing this to you, but it’s easier for you to place all that anger on the employer. But why on earth are you the one hiding out in a bedroom alone if he’s the one who needs to isolate for work??

            1. OP#1*

              We’d been operating under the assumption that unemployment wasn’t an option because he didn’t make enough money – but I have been looking into the new covid rules and it looks like it might be?

              He needs to isolate from work because I’m going to protests, so it is a shared responsibility thing *somewhat*. I definitely wish he was better at standing up to his employers.

    8. CynicalinScotland*

      Everyone saying to just not tell OP’s partner’s employer about their contacts is being incredibly ableist and potentially threatening their life. As a condition of their employment, OP’s partner is being asked to ensure they do not come into contact with someone (in this case OP) who has had multiple unmasked contacts with other people. Is this an ideal situation considering OP’s occupation? No. Is it a case of the employer trying to protect themselves from a a serious illness that has overwhelming affected disabled people? Yes. Vaccines are not 100% effective, new variants are increasingly transmissible and potentially increasingly deadly. This is not a case of what they don’t know can’t hurt them. People deserve to be in informed control of their situation.

      1. hbc*

        “People deserve to be in informed control of their situation.” Not to this level, they don’t. They are asking for a high degree of control over their *part-time* employee’s private life, and given the level of risk now that both the employee and the care recipient are vaccinated, it is ridiculous to demand that they isolate beyond even the government’s recommendations for unvaccinated people. It’s a huge overreach.

        The way to morally reduce risk here is to pay someone to essentially be working 24/7, because this job is interfering with normal activities. Short of that, you make peace with the fact that you can’t completely eliminate risk.

        1. TRexx*

          The fact that the caregiver is part time vs full time is completely irrelevant to the health and safety of an elderly high risk person, who has a much higher likelihood of death from the virus.

          The employer has every right to make the request on their employer’s household- in order to protect their patient’s life.

          In addition, since the employer also has knowledge about activities (no matter how noble) that would be viewed by most rational humans as “higher risk” I am also pondering if NOT requiring this arrangement could be seen as negligent on the employer’s part.

          1. ten four*

            The fact that the caregiver is part time is extremely relevant to how much control they can reasonably exert. I don’t fault the client for having strict safety standards, but they need to pay for that level of risk mitigation. It’s completely unreasonable to require such high levels of control over the lives of TWO people in exchange for a handful of badly paid hours a day.

            The employer is behaving unethically.

          2. Pescadero*

            “The employer has every right to make the request on their employer’s household- in order to protect their patient’s life. ”

            Yes, they do. But they should not.

          3. Old and Don’t Care*

            The caregiver has been vaccinated, as has the assistee. To my knowledge nursing homes and hospitals aren’t requiring the partners of their employees to isolate themselves. This is analogous. I assume this is all about the unvaccinated member of the employer’s household and my guess is that after the OP is vaccinated there will still be reasons why the OP has to isolate. They should be having those discussions now, so the OP isn’t looking for an end in sight that will never come, or so that the employer doesn’t have expectations that will make finding a caregiver very hard. The employer might be surprised to learn that it will be difficult to find a vaccinated employee and their vaccinated household who are willing to isolate themselves indefinitely.

            1. OP#1*

              Yes, my partner is the only employee who has a real problem with what ‘s going on right now because they usually hire from their personal networks, which has helped with finding people willing to comply with their conditions because they’ve built up their own circle of people who are all in a bubble / pod together (and, their friends have similar risk tolerances to them – I think because risk aligns somewhat with class, but it might also be a personality thing?). My problems have come because I’m trying to have connections / I feel obligations to people outside the pod…

        2. Infrequent_Commenter*

          >given the level of risk now that both the employee and the care recipient are vaccinated

          The CDC just released guidance on this 4 days ago, and yes it does change things. Presumably the employer will update their policy and this issue will become moot. But prior to the release of guidance/prior to vaccination, the policy was perfectly reasonable/in-line with what other businesses were doing and CDC guidance.

          1. hbc*

            I know of no other business that required isolation from your spouse or partner based on that partner’s activities. OP has said that they had to quarantine after a masked trip to the grocery store. That is beyond ridiculous.

            1. Natalie*

              Neither do I, and that’s including a number of people in direct patient care and teachers. One of my friends works directly with transplant recipients and her spouse and children subject to these kids of requirements. (She is also vaccinated now, but even before that?)

              1. Natalie*

                JFC editing fail. Her spouse and children *are not* subject to these kinds of restrictions.

            2. A*

              I only know of one – my friend is head of dining services at a boarding school (middle school) that stayed open throughout the pandemic, in part because the majority of the student body is international and literally couldn’t travel home. The on site employees/staff AND their spouses have been required to fill out a survey every week (it’s on a phone app) asking if they have any symptoms and asking them to declare any potential exposures.

              It’s extreme… but it’s a situation where there are minor children involved that the school is solely responsible for 24/7 with the majority of them not even having the option to return home.

              1. A*

                Edited to add: apologies, I should not have said spouses. What I meant was other members of the household, which in his case only includes his wife (+ 2 kids under two but obviously they don’t have to fill out the survey)

        3. meteorological spring*

          I think you are conflating “informed control” ie ability to make decisions based on all the information, with actual control over OP1’s life, which they are also doing. The second is an overreach in my opinion, but “informed control” ie wanting to know about exposure activities so they can make a fully informed decision is absolutely, completely 100% not an overreach.

      2. OP#1*

        Thanks for this perspective – this has definitely been deeper than “what do I owe my employer” because of the the intimacy of the work and disability justice implications. My partner and I would never lie to this family – before all this, we had really solid relationships, and even when relationships are strained, I do think informed consent is important, especially when someone is vulnerable, even when my own assessment of the objective risks is different from theirs. My partner and I are both disabled ourselves (not that disabled people can’t be ableist), and though we’re not immuno-compromised or medically vulnerable because we have that perspective we’ve been willing to make adjustments to their requests for a long time because we know that disabled folks have to look out for each other. I had just been really hopeful that there was an end in sight with the vaccines – and they had told me that’s how they were interpreting vaccines – but it looks like their thinking might be shifting. Which is a very human thing – to not know how you’ll feel about something until it happens and until you have all the details – but it’s hard.

        1. 124243*

          Dude, you are really bending over backwards for people who pay your partner low wages for part-time work, and who pay you…nothing.

          When people get vaccinated, their decisions about COVID risk should change. That’s the whole point of the vaccine! Risk of transmission drastically lowered, risk of serious illness or death down to nil. If they’re not changing their draconian rules at all after vaccination, they’re behaving irrationally.

          If you’re not comfortable lying (which 99% of us would do) then your partner needs to quit and find a higher-paid job with more rational people.

          1. HelloHello*

            lying about your covid risk is morally abhorrent, no matter what you’re being paid or not being paid. I hope to god 99% of people wouldn’t lie about it, but given my massively shaken faith in humanity this year I’m terrified you might be right about that.

            If someone lied to me about their covid precautions before spending time indoors with me or a family member, I would never be able to trust them again.

            1. hbc*

              If you demand over-the-top covid precautions like this as a condition of employment, you are begging to be lied to. You are completely disrespecting other people by demanding such control of their personal life for marginal (at best) reduction in risk.

              I would consider lying about this no more immoral than lying to a boss who insisted I not have sex so I couldn’t spread HIV around the office.

              1. Colette*

                But the equivalent is not telling a sexual partner you have HIV. The employer is making their requirements clear; the OP’s partner can comply or quit.

                1. Anon Lawyer*

                  Well, actually no, since the OP doesn’t have Covid and has actually never been in a situation that any reputable authority deems high risk of catching Covid and worthy of quarantining.

                  I don’t think the OP should lie – it’s clear that’s not how this particular situation is working. But in general, if you need employment to live (most people do) and your employer demands incredibly unreasonable things of you in your personal life to keep your job, I think it’s fine to lie.

                2. Colette*

                  I strongly disagree that you get to make decisions about other people’s health, whether they employ you or not.

                3. Anon Lawyer*

                  Welcome to life. You don’t get to control what masked people at the grocery at the same time as you have done either and that’s actually a more direct contact than LW is having with any of these people.

        2. Qwerty*

          I really want to commend you on your honesty and refusing to lie or deceive this family even though you disagree with their policies. It says a lot about your character.

          The science and guidelines regarding vaccines keep changing. So rather than doing a bait-and-switch, it sounds more like the employer is just sticking with the most cautious version of events since guidelines have really flip flopped. For example, doctors/scientists have said that people with the mRNA version of the vaccine could still transmit the disease, while others say we’re all good (hopefully the research results come out soon!). There is also some social engineering at play since vaccinated people are still told they need to wear a mask to protect themselves and others (probably just to prevent unvaccinated people from going maskless). Plus there’s all the variants and the unknowns on whether the vaccines cover those. I used to follow vaccine news closely before giving up since it was all over the board and resigned myself to the pandemic lifestyle for the foreseeable future.

          You mentioned in one of your other posts that some caregivers live on site – does your partner have this option? That way even though you would miss out on seeing him during quarantine, at least you would be stuck in one room the entire time. Is your partner open to looking for a new job?

          Maybe I’m projecting, but how much social interaction are you getting? Are protests your main way of interacting with people? When you are stuck quarantining in your room, do you have people to virtually hang out with or are you just feeling caged up?

          1. OP#1*

            Yes, I don’t think I was ever counting on vaccines stopping transmission when I was trying to imagine whether 2021 would be bearable – I was counting on their “things will loosen up once the one high-risk person who lives here is vaccinated” to be true. It’s likely they didn’t really think through the transmission aspect – and I feel like doing their best to plan that out and be open about that, even if it has to change, is part of their responsibility as an employer. I do wish in retrospect I’d asked more questions, but I feel like I’ve done a lot of other work.

            He can live on-site but he would have to pay rent, so I’d still be stuck paying extra for a place (even after their housing money).

            He’s open to looking for a new job but hasn’t felt capable of it due to anxiety / disability; he’s been making progress but I don’t think he’s even at the “searching” part of the job search yet tbh.

            Relationships are hard! I have one friend who I video-chat with every week, and only because she insisted on it. I’m estranged from most of my family and my mom passed away two years ago, so while I’ve lived in this area for 3 years, I don’t have any ties older than three years ago and most of those aren’t deep, trusting relationships because it’s hard to build those when you’re grieving. I put most of my eggs in the basket of this one household I’m having all the issues with now, unfortunately – and, my partner. Protests have definitely been meeting a social need, although those relationships are in a specific context that doesn’t always translate – or takes time to translate – to other areas. Work’s also been really draining for me and I haven’t had many more spoons left for other social things (protesting takes a completely different set of spoons, if that makes sense).

        3. Casper Lives*

          OP, it’s great that you’re a kind person. But this employer is completely unreasonable. I wouldn’t lie to them, but I also couldn’t abide working for paranoid, controlling people like them. If they wanted zero risk, they would take care of the disabled person alone, in total isolation, and pay more than minimum wage for hiring anyone around the clock to live with them in total isolation like a cult. Are they paying your partner $63,336 annually at minimum with room and board? Why not? They’re asking to control his life to an absurd extent outside of work. That’s servitude, not freedom.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is an excellent take.

        If I was paying someone to care for my vulnerable loved one, I would have strict rules for them to follow regarding potential exposures as well.

        1. Dahlia*

          Strict rules for the SPOUSE of your part-time, low-wage employee?

          How do you think that would pan out?

        2. biobotb*

          Then I hope you would be willing to pay through the nose in order to control all aspects of your employee’s life. Your employee should not have to shoulder all of the costs of your stringent policies — if you set them, you should too.

        3. Roci*

          I agree. The employer is not directly asking anything of OP, they are setting rules for the people who come into their home. Just like if they require the worker to start at 7am, that may mean that their spouse has to wake up early to drive them, or if they must wear a uniform and spouse has to do more laundry. That’s just the employer setting rules for their employees and it’s up to the employees to make it work.

          But I think the parts about isolating from the grocery store are extreme. And I think this one is really on OP to say “I can’t continue to protest because of the hardship on my family” or on the partner to say “I can’t make this job work because of the hardship on my family.” If both want to prioritize their jobs and hobbies over their family, then they will continue to experience hardships as a family.

    9. OP#1*

      Thanks for bringing up the “no one will be able to take care of the other person” – part of my intention of asking for advice is to try to get some perspective on where they’re coming from, while managing my own disappointed feelings so that as we do talk more about what vaccines mean it goes well. From my side part of why I feel comfortable asking for changes is that they’ve built up a fairly-deep support network over time (10-ish people, depending on who you count – some aren’t following the same protocol). I’m actually part of that network myself, which is part of why I’ve been accommodating for so long; I care about them and I feel bad that my own actions mean I’m not able to provide support / my partner sometimes isn’t. And, I remember when her main caregiver had to quarantine once, not so many people stepped up to shoulder the burden of that, so they may not really feel supported. Plus, theoretically, everyone in that network could get covid at the same time if they’re having contact with each other! With some of the people vaccinated I’ve been less worried about this myself, but that doesn’t meant that they aren’t. And, I know that having a professional caregiver – even though those can grow into very close relationships, as this one has – isn’t the same as having family members.

      Part of my struggle is definitely that I don’t have a huge support network here myself (I’m learning to rely on activist communities more, but it’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I trust my partner, whereas those relationships are newer and come with their own norms), so being cut off from my partner means there’s not a logical “here’s who’d step in to take care of you when you’re sick.” Lately I’ve gotten so used to other people counting as an exposure that it’s hard to remember I can ask for help or that other people might not have qualms about exposed to me: e.g. when I got a concussion at a protest over the summer for example my impulse was “okay, my head hurts a lot but a ride is a lot to ask and my partner’s not allowed to drive me, plus the hospital’s only a 15-minute walk” becuase even though that was a situation where I could have asked someone – the hospital visit itself counted as an exposure – I had no practice navigating it.

      They did provide extra pay for housing when I asked, but we live in an area where housing is really expensive, especially because the Airbnb would have to have a private entrance and unshared air to not count as its own exposure. I enjoy that kind of research, but even with a lot of effort I found only one place in the area that is sometimes booked, and the money they were offering would have covered about 25% of the cost – and, I’d still be separated from my partner.

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        Ouch, that is a sucky situation and it sounds too much to the point that even shared air is an exposure. I don’t have good advice. I just wanted to say thank you for your activist work and I hope you will be able to work this out.

      2. florence looking for machines*

        Lately I’ve gotten so used to other people counting as an exposure that it’s hard to remember I can ask for help or that other people might not have qualms about exposed to me: e.g. when I got a concussion at a protest over the summer for example my impulse was “okay, my head hurts a lot but a ride is a lot to ask and my partner’s not allowed to drive me, plus the hospital’s only a 15-minute walk” becuase even though that was a situation where I could have asked someone – the hospital visit itself counted as an exposure – I had no practice navigating it.

        This is such a red flag.

        Sometimes situations can be really bad and cause harm even without anyone in them intending them, because of the unintended consequences. The unintended consequences here are you feeling very isolated, without your social support, and the social support you do have through knowing these people is that they make you feel like you’re the problem and you don’t matter and your health and needs don’t matter.

        One thing I’m struggling with with my own history of trauma is the knowledge that my needs don’t matter and I can’t ask for help and no one cares about my pain. I have to fight that bone-deep knowledge and to do that I need evidence that if I ask for help, people will help, and that what I want does matter, and if I get sick, people will be sympathetic and help me. If I had a job that instead told me, actually, you’re right and your needs don’t matter, the needs of someone else trump you having a concussion… There’s some long term damage, both physically and mentally, that can result from that.

        Even if everyone does have the best of intentions. Whose life and safety are being prioritized? Who suffers for it? Who is more important? Whose disability matters more?

        1. OP#1*

          Right – no one’s intending harm, but it can happen regardless.

          Thanks for sharing from the perspective of someone who also has trauma!

          And yes I think with disability justice I’ve internalized “center the most marginalized” which isn’t me here, but I’m still working on the idea that “center” doesn’t mean “never address other needs.”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        And you both have gone though this in order for your partner to keep their job. smh. I’d be at my wits end if it were me.

        It’s odd how jobs can draw our attention to all that is right and all that is wrong with our lives. We get dependent on our jobs for a source of identity, a sense of accomplishment and our jobs help to anchor us in this world. We put way more ON to our jobs that is meant to be there. And this is where the problems come in. For me, I summed it up as too much reliance on emotions to make practical decisions. Or it could be emotions getting in the way of practicality- eh, who knows.

        I think that you have a very good awareness of gaps in life- this is actually good that you can articulate them. When we can’t state or don’t know where are gaps are, it’s super hard to begin to look at small steps in changing those gaps.

        I also think that you are very good at putting others ahead of yourself. This is not always an asset. For me, being widowed opened my eyes to learning to ask for help more and saying yes to offers of help. I learned to accept rides from people and so much more. There always seems to be that envelope pushing event that makes us look at what we are doing and how we think about life.

        I have to go back to something that I was saying up thread here, I need to expand a bit. Your partner may be having some covert learning going on here, messages that were not intended. Your partner may be getting the message that “Jobs are HARD. Jobs require we give all at all times. Jobs require doing whatever the employer says and we have to put up with it. Jobs require that we give of ourselves until our own identity is totally lost.”

        I dunno. I am not there. But your partner’s job sounds more soul-sucking the longer I read. If the point is for you two to be together in life, this job will not allow you both to achieve that goal. Does your partner want to forego quality time with you in order to remain employed? If it looks like Partner does, well, okay then. So for how long? How long will the two of you be going through periods of not seeing each other, another year? another two years? Human beings are amazing, they can do almost anything especially if it’s a short sprint. But most people cannot do something for a long period of time or an indefinite period of time, they usually want to rethink their setting entirely if that is the case.
        I think if Partner had said, “Give me x months to change jobs and get something with looser requirements” you would not have written AAM. You would have decided ot push through x months as you have been. Ya know, my husband worked long hours. Sometimes he was gone from the house 14-16 hours a day. I said to him, “I did not get married to be alone.” Likewise yourself, you did not agree to be partners so that you could be alone.

        1. OP#1*

          Thanks for this! Yes, we had a long conversation about “why stay there instead of going on unemployment while you look for a new job?” I’m trying to get him to understand that taking money from the system he paid into, that’s there for situations like this, is fine, instead of waiting to have a new job lined up before he quits this one. I think a lot of the shame about going on unemployment comes from that “you have to have a job or you’re worthless as a person” mentality. And, his lack of flexibility on places to apply to has to do with seeing his job as his identity – he won’t just take any old thing. It’s been mind-boggling for me, because I’m used to juggling 2-4 jobs to make ends meet and while I’ve been lucky enough to often find work I have *some* attachment to, I wouldn’t go a long stretch waiting to find the perfect thing like he is.

      4. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

        If your partner’s job was a Mcdonalds drive thru person and this was required of them would they stay? Would you be as willing to do what your doing if their job was Mcdonalds? My point is it sounds like you are both thinking of these people as family your helping and not an employer that you are exchanging pay for a service. This is a part time job that is taking up more time in your lives than a full time job, and may be costing both of you more than you are making.
        Bottom line for me would be your partners employer needs to be covering more if they want this kind of control over their staff. If your partner stays, it’s not idea but would your partners employer let them live there when they need you to quarantine? My co-worker has an immunocompromised son and since the pandemic they moved in their help that was going to continue working for them (and their kids) and cover groceries and incidentals, but require that they stay on the property.

        1. OP#1*

          Yes, exactly – the emotional aspects are making it harder to walk away here (especially because my partner wouldn’t be willing to work somewhere that was “just a job” – the next place he goes would have to have some sort of draw. It’s a perspective I really struggle to understand).

          I’m trying to avoid having him live there because I think that will make it even harder to leave. (He would also have to pay rent).

          1. Fish*

            Would he have to pay rent to *the employer*? Because that would be frankly outrageous in this situation.

      5. Beth*

        OP, this isn’t tenable.

        I get why your partner’s employers are scared and trying to be cautious. I get why your partner wants to keep this job. I get why you want to try to keep them safe. All of these things are understandable impulses.

        But the end result here? The end result is that one person (your partner’s employer) has a network of 10+ people to care for them, all of whom are presumably living under really strict standards at their request, while you have nobody you can rely on even when you’re seriously injured. They’re not paying well enough for you and your partner to access professional support options; they’re not allowing you to care for each other; they’re forbidding you to be in contact with a broader community that could offer support.

        That’s wildly unsustainable, and I’m amazed you’ve made it this far. The issue here isn’t that you go to protests sometimes (or at least, that’s just an exacerbating factor). The issue is that your partner’s employers are making impossible-to-sustainably-fulfill demands of him. They need to either create circumstances where their standards are reasonable (via significantly raising compensation, increasing paid leave for your partner–there is no legal maximum to sick leave, they could keep giving it if this is crucial to them–and whatever other routes would actually make this work for you) or relax those standards. You are 100% in the right to demand that one of these two things happens ASAP.

        I know it’s scary for them to think of relaxing standards, even with the vaccine done. But part of living in a pandemic is that the world is scary for everyone. Yes, being at high risk increases that, but none of us are safe right now. It’s not right for them to ask you to sacrifice your well-being and safety so they can feel a little more secure.

        1. Jackalope*

          This is 100% spot on. I understand how much you care for your partner’s charge, and you’re trying hard to make this work. But the people in this situation who have the most options and resources (his employers) are still seeing friends and having a social life, and are reaping all of the benefits here, while you and your partner, who have much less in the way or resources, are reaping all of the costs and negative consequences. This is an emotional and financial burden on both of you and his employers are not doing nearly enough to help lift it even though they are the ones with the resources. They are also continuing to expect a wildly overreaching amount of control in your life when the most vulnerable person in the situation (as well as a number of others) is now vaccinated. While not compensating you and in fact expecting you to essentially pay a fair bit of money for extra housing and such so your partner can keep his low-paying part time job. I too am concerned about COVID, and understand your desire to keep them safe, but this is incredibly unreasonable on their part.

        2. mf*

          This x1000:

          “The issue is that your partner’s employers are making impossible-to-sustainably-fulfill demands of him. They need to either create circumstances where their standards are reasonable (via significantly raising compensation, increasing paid leave for your partner–there is no legal maximum to sick leave, they could keep giving it if this is crucial to them–and whatever other routes would actually make this work for you) or relax those standards.”

          My husband works at a Fortune 500 company with extremely good benefits and compensation. If they made the same demands of him that your partner’s employer is making, he and I could make it work. We wouldn’t enjoy it, but we could manage it, and it would be worth it for the size of his paycheck.

          OP, don’t put up with these demands unless you feel it is worth it (financially and career-wise) for your family and your wellbeing.

        3. OP#1*

          Thanks for this, all! The framing of employers as having a solid support network and access to resources is helpful – I’m so used to thinking of them as vulnerable that it’s been hard to see “actually, they’ll be okay and you are the one who’s struggling.” There’s probably some internalized ableism / personal trauma in there about “well, I can take care of myself, whereas this person can’t” instead of being able to see “no, they’ve got what they need and you don’t.”

      6. Cypress Shrill*

        OP, I really wish you luck as you figure this out. I’m really glad you’re getting so much feedback and seem open to what folks are saying, because it definitely sounds like you’re viewing a lot of things as black and white/non-negotiable that are probably actually very nuanced. You mention having an autism diagnosis (so that makes sense) and a therapist (a great resource!).

        Please consider exploring the idea that you are entitled to set your own boundaries. You do not have to make endless sacrifices for your partner because they can’t handle quarantining, or because they have low self-esteem or anxiety about work. You do not have to make endless sacrifices for their employer, even though you like them, value them, and feel compassion for them. It’s ok to say no, or to decide that your comfort or basic needs are not up for debate.

        For sure, you can choose to make sacrifices and compromises. And you can prioritize who/what you make those choices for. But it really does sound like you’re putting everyone else’s needs over your own and don’t have the language or comfort level to even identify when a request crosses a line.

        What is it that you need, that’s non-negotiable for you? And what would your partner do to make sure you got what you needed?

        1. OP#1*

          Yeah, it’s definitely an autism thing for some to be loyal and very strict on ethics. There’s a practical level to it, too: when social norms are hard to navigate, you grab people and hang on to them. I think for me non-negotiables are being able to continue protesting (I have stood up for myself in that area, at least) and I’m trying to figure out how much social contact I want to have outside my partner / his employers (and who to have that contact with – I haven’t been cultivating those relationships due to all this). Living alone is helpful right now because I am starting to get some extra spoons to reach out to other people, even though I miss my partner.

    10. Retro*

      OP1, would it be a reasonable solution for your partner’s employer to pay their unpaid caregiver and thus qualify for them to get vaccinated? I don’t think it count as gaming the system since the unpaid caregiver does have very real caregiving duties. In the same conversation, you can discuss whether the restrictions can be loosened.

      Frankly, I think your partner’s employer’s policy on no shared air or 30 minutes of shared space access is really extreme. It essentially limit’s OP’s ability to live freely in her own home. I wouldn’t consider having masks on with no restriction of movement throughout the house as extreme but confining OP to her room for most of the day is a HUGE BURDEN and really unreasonable for OP to accommodate. I understand the fear but precautions are layers of protection. And executing that layer of protection must be realistic and reasonable without causing undue burden. Masks are easy to wear and cause minimal burden but confining OP to her room is a lot more burden. Additionally, each layer of protection provides X% protection. I’d consider no shared air/30 minutes shared air protection % vs her partner wearing masks and social distancing in the house protection X% to be not that different. Is it fair for OP’s partner’s employer to be the one to decide whether that small increase in protection is worth OP’s huge sacrifice in not seeing her partner for weeks? I think that decision should be up to OP and her partner.

      1. kt*

        The science here does not support the “no shared air” protocol for risk mitigation — it is indeed extreme. Masking in your house and keeping the windows open would provide incredible risk mitigation.

    11. lilsheba*

      Ahhhh this is a slippery slope. It is unusual for an employer to even know what their employee’s partner even does in their personal lives, let alone control it. From that end I don’t like it. From the pandemic end though I would be pissed if my employer lived with someone who spent time with angry protesters getting in their face with no mask. I know they said tests didn’t make a difference but they should, I would at least demand a test after each encounter. Or maybe even weekly just to be safe.

      On the other hand what WOULD they do if they worked in a high contact job? That would be terrible too. I used to be a caregiver years ago, I sure am glad I’m not now it’s getting too complicated :/.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        There are tons of jobs where your partner’s work matters and has to be disclosed for conflict of interest purposes. If your partner works in the financial industry, you can be restricted on what investments you make and have to disclose your trades. If you are married to someone that needs security clearance, you may go through some sort of background check yourself. At a minimum, your info, including SSN will be given to the investigator.

        For attorneys, their spouse can be restricted on what cases/clients they can take to avoid a conflict. People have to recuse or re-staff. This isn’t just attorney/attorney relationships but attorney/police officer, attorney/judge, attorney/doctor so many situations.

        There are other industries that prevent a spouse from working at a competitor due to concerns about NDAs and highly confidential information.

        Granted, these are usually well paying industries but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that your employer usually doesn’t know or let alone care what your spouse does. In all of my prior jobs, my spouse has had to be disclosed to avoid various conflicts. That’s while he worked four different jobs, all of which could have been a conflict at some point in our small state.

      2. lilsheba*

        Hmmm I’ve never run into this, and I’ve worked in several industries including credit, customer service, banking, radio and telecommunications.

    12. Artemesia*

      If I were employed by this micromanager of my partner’s life, I would find someone else to work for. There is a high demand for caregivers; find another job. It is not reasonable to expect the partner to quarantine every time they leave the house.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I agree. Their logic means that if the partner goes to the grocery store or dentist they would have to quarantine. It is one thing to ask for quarantine after a trip or extended/cumulative time with someone. It is another to ask for every interaction to = a two week quarantine. I think the partner needs to consider if this job is long-term viable since it is so restrictive to your personal life, OP. Perhaps if they need someone who will absolutely not interact with anyone they need to hire a live-in caregiver.

      2. quarantine*

        I’ve read OPs justifications for Partner staying at this job, but, as an outsider, it does not seem worth it. OP seems to want to change Employer’s mind. Employer wants a no-risk situation. Employer could just hire someone else without having to get into these ongoing attempts to change their mind. They’ve made their position known. Why continue in circles like this? If Employer, OP, and Partner all like each other- great, be friends. But the employment situation seems untenable.

        1. OP#1*

          Yes, if they had been clearer from the beginning that they truly wanted no-risk for the household (as opposed to, no risk of severe covid for the one high-risk person living there, which is how they’d been framing it), I don’t think we would’ve ended up here.

    13. TootsNYC*

      also, they’re not really asking it of the LW. They’re asking it of their employee.
      HE is the one to needs to be separate somehow. It’s getting phrased as HER quarantining, but they’d probably be fine if HE stayed in the room.

    14. another partner of a caregiver*

      I’d like to specify that the following comment is a general one about one of the issues in play, rather than taking a position on OP#1’s very specific current situation. OP#1’s situation is troubling to me for the specific reasons that the employer isn’t covering more of the costs OP#1’s partner is incurring due to employment, and that the employer-family is socializing with their own friends who work from home when it sounds like they’re saying their employee can’t do the same.

      However, I’ve read most of the comments in this thread, and I want to gently push back on some of the beliefs that others have been (often not so gently) espousing about the “reasonableness” of OP#1 quarantining in their room because their partner is a caregiver.

      My situation is similar to OP#1’s in several key ways. My partner is an in-home caregiver, also recently vaccinated. We each have our own apartments (since before the pandemic), and I haven’t seen her in person at all, not even out of doors, since the pandemic began. It’s only now that she’s vaccinated that we’re even *considering* seeing each other *masked/distanced/outdoors.*

      I did this voluntarily and never thought of it as unreasonable—the virus could kill the vulnerable people my partner cares for. Vulnerable people didn’t choose to need care during a pandemic and they aren’t the ‘bad guys’ who are causing the need for precautions; the virus is the bad guy causing the need for precautions.

      It’s not a one-to-one comparison with OP#1 in that I have two rooms to exist in instead of one, which is absolutely a difference from one room, and my partner’s job is full-time, not part-time. But on the other hand, I haven’t seen her in-person even once for *12 months,* and it just feels weird and almost disparaging to read this thread where people are saying that quarantining in a small space for spans of 2 weeks repeatedly because one’s partner is an in-home caregiver is in and of itself “insane” or “lighting oneself on fire to keep others warm” when I have just been…doing that for a 12-month-span straight?

      (I have depression and other mental health conditions, and yes, quarantining has been bad for my mental health; this is a sacrifice I’m willing to make *in moderation*—I absolutely am not encouraging others with mental health issues to bring themselves to the point of crisis or even close to the point of eventual crisis if quarantining is doing so. But I did want to bring this up lest someone say ‘but what about mental health conditions’—I have one, and taking a moderate hit there is worth it to me to protect others from a deadly respiratory virus.)

      (Which I guess does make me “insane” by both Anon Lawyer’s definition and the actual definition, ha.)

      1. OP#1*

        Thanks for this perspective! Yes, vulnerable people aren’t the ‘bad guys’ for having needs that require specific boundaries. I’m glad you haven’t been in crisis and I hope the strain continues to lessen for the two of you.

        Now that I’m living alone I’m realizing how much of the quarantining issue was really about having my partner “so close, but so far away.” That, plus the idea of “what if I leave my door open one day and my partner breathes the air from my room and transmits it?” or “what if I unplug the HEPA filter on accident” or “what if I forget to wear a mask” or “what if I cough / sneeze and then open my door?” I wish earlier on I had just gone and gotten my own place – which would have come with its own challenges, but there wouldn’t have been that added layer of being reminded every time I come home that I pose a risk to a whole network of people.

        1. another partner of a caregiver*

          Thanks for your kind words. <3 Wanted to emphasize again that it sounds like your partner's employers are being some degree of exploitative towards you both, and I'm definitely not trying to imply there weren't problems with your situation–I was mostly posting because I was frustrated with some of the more-extreme stuff others were commenting. I'm sorry you're going through this, and I hope you and your partner are in a better situation soon.

    15. OP#1*

      Okay update: my partner talked to the employers (on his own) and told me they’d come up with “a solution.” The solution is…they’ll have my partner do yard work or light cleaning in the home, depending on what sort of exposure I had. That way, no income’s lost. But, it’s obviously a dramatically different job. They said he’d still have the same hours but I don’t see how that’s possible – especially if it’s raining or something, or if stuff really heats up and there’s quarantine for weeks and weeks, and he runs out of yardwork tasks to do…

      So I sat down and showed him some of this thread, and we looked up the unemployment requirements together (he doesn’t qualify based on income over the past year – it already wasn’t a lot of money and then all the unpaid quarantines on top of that – but it looks like if the employer certifies that the workplace is closed due to covid he can still get some?), and I’m putting him in touch with my social worker friend to try to apply.

      He went back to the employers and asked what things would get easier now that there’s a vaccine and their reaction was “oh, we’re under less emotional stress now, so talking about covid risks will be easier” but…that’s different from a specific commitment to honoring what my partner and I have been doing by actually making some changes to the set-up. They’re going through a process with the rest of the household where they all set agreements about risk – they said they’d go along with whatever the household decided on, since they aren’t willing to quarantine from the household. So now the chain has changed from me-my partner-disabled person to me-my partner-disabled person-unvaccinated caregiver to me-my partner-disabled person-unvaccinated caregiver- unvaccinated household member…

      They asked my partner whether he felt like he’d been mistreated and he told them he’d get back to them.

      1. Fish*

        So it really is that they feel entitled as a household to absolutely zero covid risk, which is only possible for them by everyone around them shouldering all of the risk and sacrifices. (You can’t even talk to *someone else* if they’ve been inside a shop!!) And they also want to keep up the social fiction that this is all reasonable. OP, I’m also autistic, and this is hitting all my “that’s not fair!” buttons SO HARD. You and your partner have definitely been taken advantage of, they have SO many more resources than you in this situation.

        1. OP#1*

          “Social fiction” is such a great phrase for it – yes, I think being autistic can make it really hard to figure out when other people aren’t being reasonable. (Like, even reading this comment my mind went to “well, I am allowed to talk to people, just not un-masked / indoors / closer than 6 feet” because it’s still so hard to grasp that people can and are taking advantage of me and my partner here).

  6. Joy*

    LW#4 If you are in the US, you can apply for FMLA (family /personal medical leave) for yourself as the primary caregiver for your partner. You can just take time off as needed to care for your partner and family. Your partner’s doctor would fill out the necessary paperwork. Having the paperwork on file with your job also gives you legal protection in case you end up needing to take more time off than you expect.

    1. Sue*

      It sounds like maybe the partner is going to a treatment program. If that’s the case, I think it could be approached as a temporary absence if she doesn’t want to disclose any medical information but wants to let work know she has extra responsibilities at home for a period of time.

    2. OP4*

      I had completely forgotten that this was an option. I’ll definitely follow up with that suggestion and see what is available to me. It’s a very difficult position to find myself in, and it’s hard to talk about it without becoming emotional—but if my situation qualifies, protected leave or reduced hours could be very helpful.

      1. Name of Requirement*

        Can you proactively take a few vacation days, just to relieve the pressure? Give yourself a bit more time for household tasks, etc?

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          Please consider this! It’s much better to plan 1 day off every week or two for a short term period than to burn yourself out and call out sick. Even if work is acting as a distraction, you’re still likely to burn out quicker due to stress. A preplanned day off with self-care that you’ve proactively decided on feels so much better than calling out and feeling like you can’t do anything that day. Yes, the later is also self-care, but for me it brings about more negative emotions.

        2. Generic Name*

          This. I’ve been in a protracted custody battle with my son’s dad, and it’s incredibly stressful. One day this week I had several unrelated personal appointments, and rather than try to juggle making up time or taking sick time for the medical appointment, I decided to take the day off. It wasn’t as relaxing as a true vacation, but it did help my stress levels a bit.

      2. TootsNYC*

        remember that FMLA can be intermittent.

        It just means the leave is protected. I know someone who took an afternoon or two off each week to take his mother to treatment.

        There might be restrictions your employer puts on that have to do with how much notice, or how much time (i.e., half days, instead of hourly counts).

        It’s usually unpaid, though. And employers are generally allowed to require you to use your vacay days to cover it. (mine, interestingly, treats FMLA as completely separate from vacay, and it is unpaid–you can choose to use vacay for something that would be an FMLA issue, in order to be paid, if you like, but you can also take FMLA and still have vacation left)

        But talk with the HR folks to see how that works.

        Remember also that short-term disability can be tapped for mental issues. I don’t know how that works, whether it needs to be in a chunk, or whether it can be intermittent.

  7. H*

    There is an interesting show on YouTube and Netflix – “Patriot Act” – with one episode, “Why Your Internet Sucks”, that talks about internet inequality. It’s basically another type of redlining.

    I recommend you watch it to gain basic familiarity with the issue. It may inform you and your company’s way of handling this – for example, knowing neighbourhoods with a lot of Black residents often have poor internet access, you may be more willing and able to go to bat for your employee so as not to contribute to racial inequality.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’ll look this up, but yeah, it’s a big problem all over the place. My in laws live in a small town in France and the only available Internet is terrible. Half my family lives in a small city in the Midwest and their only choice is terrible. Even my parents’ old neighbourhood, which was in the old suburbs of a good sized city got terrible service.

      Maybe some kind of mobile option would work? I always get much better mobile Internet in those places.

    2. Poster #3*

      Thanks for this feedback, I’ll take a look at the videos you recommended! This isn’t as big of an issue in Canada, we have a government that tries to balance out inequality and in the area we both live in, this is not an issue. We have the option for fibe level internet for $30/month–this employee just might not know about the options that are out there. And we’re government employees, so there’s little wiggle room on the coverage of costs given that our salaries and expenses are covered by taxpayer dollars.

      1. Chinook*

        Oh, it is a big issue in Canada, just not around certain major metro areas where a large portion of the population lives. It is the reason Elon Musk is using parts of Canada for testing his version of internet access at high cost for the testers. And the government is saying it supports fixing the isssue but nothing practical has happenned even though this has ben known issue for years before the pandemic (and they really can’t do anything since most provinces privatized there telecommunications decades ago). Heck, there is a CBC panel memeber in Southern Ontario who does her weekly panels from her car during lockdown because she has to drive to a nearby highway just to get cell conection she can tether too. Her fellow panelists were shocked enough to ask her about it on camera after a month of them seeing her car and not her office.

        And it is a byproduct of privatization. Another example – my MIL lives in a city and can see the international airport from her street. But, she is a cul-de-sac that is serviced by a communications box so old that it internal labels all refer to the pre-privatizion telecommunications organization (if anything is labelled AGT, then it is literally pre-1990’s tech). Every year she gets a call from her provider trying to convince her to upgrade but, when she asks if they have upgraded the street connection. The salesperson has to look it up and comes to the conclusion that it would be unethical to ask someone to pay for a service the company can’t physically provide and she get an apology.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          +1000. It’s a real issue in many parts of Canada, where one side of the street may have fibre-optic internet access and the other doesn’t. It was like that for us at the office for a very long time, where we couldn’t get anything better than DSL for years until very recently, and even then we’re stuck with 50 Mbit/sec.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        Or maybe this employee has researched this and found either:
        1> the plan isn’t available in their specific area, since the plan I believe you’re referring to is specific to Bell and they haven’t got around to installing Fibe in that area yet, or
        2> hidden in the 3-point fine print on the bottom of the page or on some obscure link detailing the plan, it’s one of those “$30 a month for the first 3 months of a 2-year term, then we get to pull out our blue-coloured artificial fornication device that you agree to be inserted and removed into/from your posterior.”
        I understand the frustrations you’re having with this employee. No doubt the employee feels likewise. But please cut them some slack on this one.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          I don’t know if this is an issue in Canada but sometimes landlords can be jerks and not allow a tenate to get another provider. Usually providers have to get landlord permission (or they are supposed to) if they have to drill holes and stuff like that. If the provider is not already set up in that apartment or home the internet company would have to run new wiring or install stuff. And if the landlord refuses to allow it their is nothing the tenant can do.

      3. govt chump*

        I work for the US government and this might be different for Canada, I guess, but we use government funding to purchase wifi hotspots for employees who need them to do their jobs. Two things for you to consider:

        1) are you *absolutely sure* that you can’t cover this business expense? I have often found non-absolutes like “there’s little wiggle room” to mean “I don’t want to, I don’t know how, or I don’t want to figure out how to” rather than “we truly can’t”
        2) if your employee cannot upgrade his internet, what is your backup plan?

    3. lilsheba*

      I don’t know if this person lives in an apartment complex but that may be the issue too, they won’t allow all providers in that can provide internet service. I live in a complex, and I work from home for the freaking phone company, who provides 1 gig fiber service. Right now I’m on a cable connection which is fine and functions perfectly, however my company offers the 1 gig fiber free as a perk. My neighborhood can get it, but not me. Why? Because my apartment complex refuses to allow the phone company to put in the ONT (fiber device) necessary on the property to get the fiber in to us. I think it’s because they’re stupid and don’t realize what it actually is and the value it would add, but because of them I miss out on faster speeds and a free perk from work. If I lived in an individual house it would be no problem.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        …or the apartment complex you’re in has an exclusivity agreement with that cable company that forbids the phone company from installing their fibre optic nodes. In other words: you’re hamstrung by a circumstance beyond your control, and it truly sucks.

  8. cncx*

    yeah OP3 the company either needs to pay for the upgrade or let it go if the person would be coming in soon. It would go a long way in optics, too

    1. Mx*

      LW 1: That’s over the top. You don’t even work for them. Don’t let them know where you have been ! It’s none of their business, since you don’t work for them and aren’t in physical contact with them.

  9. Derivative Poster*

    OP1 – I think you and your partner have already shown a lot of compassion and integrity in trying to accommodate the concerns of the client and her family, not just telling them what they want to hear. Has anyone involved in this situation actually consulted a doctor for advice on how to proceed? As I understand it, there’s an increasing amount of evidence that indicates vaccinated people are unlikely to transmit the virus. If that’s the case, your activities shouldn’t have any impact on – or be any business of – the relatives who interact with your vaccinated partner. It sounds like you are willing to be flexible within reason, so maybe it’s worth talking to an expert (one of the client’s doctors?) to confirm the precautions they’re requesting are grounded in reason and not fear.

    1. OP#1*

      I’ve definitely been longing for an outside authority to weigh in – I’d been hoping the CDC would be enough – but I think even though finding caregivers who meet requirements is a strain, the family’s ultimately made the decision that they’d rather go without a caregiver than take unnecessary risks – even with a doctor explaining that the risks are low. They do seem to trust the vaccine to keep this disabled person safe – which I’d thought was the only concern since it’s of course been front and center – and it’s only now that we’re all recognizing transmission to other household members is going to be something to talk through. The transmission risk appears to be very low but it may still be too high when your other option is no exposure (or second- / third-hand exposure, really, since it would be getting to them through my vaccinated partner).

      1. Natalie*

        It sounds like they are aiming for an extremely high level of risk avoidance, which I guess is their prerogative even if it is probably not achievable. If that’s the decision they make, it’s not really your or your partners fault or responsibility if they end up without caregivers because of it.

        I think you and your partner need to talk about and decide how you will meet both of your needs and get that solidified first. Right now it sounds like you’re both sacrificing as much as you can in the name of this person’s very difficult to impossible goal. Why, exactly? Why are their wants and needs the most important in this discussion?

        1. Retro*

          I think the priorities can get skewed when it comes to caregiving and since OP’s family has a close relationship to the person in need of care. I think it can feel either OP adheres to all the restrictions or the person in need of care might get really sick and not recover from it. OP’s wish for more latitude can seem unfair when it is compared to the person in need of care potentially dying from covid. However, I don’t believe that is the only choice to weigh. OP’s partner stepping away from the job is also an option. It will not leave OP’s partner’s employer in the lurch since there seems to be multiple caregivers and the employer can seek out a caregiver or alternative situation where the person in need is cared for.

          The reality is that the only 100% risk free solution for the employer is to seal yourself away from anyone not in the family and pay a caregiver a fair wage to make it worth their while to seal themselves away as well. If the employer wants OP to keep adhering to their restrictions then the employer needs to make it worth OP’s while such as paying for grocery delivery (since delivery or farmer’s market can be more expensive) and paying for an airbnb for OP or her partner to quarantine in, and a multitude of other things that I ultimately feel are restrictions that are still too unrealistic to be imposing on OP.

      2. Marcy Marketer*

        Yeah that’s not science based or reasonable. Vaccinated people have a 5% chance of the vaccine not being affective which means your partner has a 5% chance of being able to contract the virus much less actually contracting it and passing it on. That level of risk is outstandingly low by scientific standards and holding out for 100% means this person would never be cared by anybody ever. At this point they’re not listening to science so while you can still have compassion it’s compassion for this fear that is causing them to act unreasonably.

      3. Joielle*

        That sounds super frustrating – the family seems to be really moving the goalposts. First it’s just concern for the disabled person’s health, and then when that concern is alleviated with the vaccine, it’s something else. When you think there’s an end in sight, and then that end date is moved to some unknown date in the future (especially for reasons that seem out of proportion to the sacrifice they’re asking of you) – personally, that’s something I find really hard to deal with.

        I don’t have any good advice beyond what’s already been said in this comment section. But this situation really sucks, and it’s ok to be irritated about it. You’re going above and beyond in showing empathy when people are putting you in a crappy situation. Even if nothing will change until everyone involved is vaccinated (hopefully very soon!) just know that you’re not being unreasonable here.

      4. Artemesia*

        so let them go without a caregiver; your partner should be able to easily find another position without the micromanaging of his life.

      5. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Windows should be opened as much as possible, HEPA air filter machines should be used, and of course high-filtration masks should be worn. If people are vaccinated, these mitigations provide more than adequate protection against transmission of Covid indoors. Particularly since OP’s partner has been vaccinated also, to want to control OPs activities to the extent she describes is unreasonable. I’ve been paranoid this past year due to comorbidities, so I get that. But the employer here needs to educate themselves about the reality of various risk levels. Also, grocery shopping is low risk, it’s the workers who spend hours indoors who have the risk. I’ve shopped throughout the pandemic (I live alone and just had to get out sometimes plus having others shop for me was not successful, I’m picky) and no infection. I’m fully vaccinated now but will continue to wear my best masks when shopping or at medical/dental appointments. Life does go on. Good luck OP, the situation may not be tenable if you cannot get your partner’s employer to make reasonable concessions.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          There was a chart outlining the relative risk profile of various activities, if I can find it I’ll provide a link. BTW, the things I’m not comfortable doing yet, even fully vaccinated, are returning to movie theaters, indoor dining, and church. I miss them all, but until vaccination rates have greatly increased, there is still too much risk, for me, being indoors for extended times with faces uncovered. Still a lot of unknowns with the new variants.

      6. Liz*

        I realise I’m very late here, but I think this part here is crucial. Your partner’s employer’s will not take the word of an authority. They are taking the CDC standards and going WAY above. And that’s fine for them to set those standards for themselves. It’s fine for them to use those standards to decide who comes into their house, especially where a vulnerable relative is concerned.

        But they cannot tell you what to do in your own home. I’d even say they can’t tell your partner what to do outside of working hours. They can decide whether or not they want to forgo his visit to care for their relative for a short period after he reports your possible exposure, but their authority ends there.

        I also work in care. Members of our staff have occasionally been exposed, either as a result of a sick family member, or they’ve taken a trip within the law that requires quarantine upon return. They are honest about their plans, and the requirement from management is that they work from home for a 2 week period, or use PTO if they can’t do their job from home. They cannot, and do not, demand that people do anything beyond the legal requirements in the confines of their own home. They can’t tell them not to go, and they can’t tell them to quarantine from family and come in anyway. (Our CEO tried to do this over Christmas, lecturing staff in a lengthy email and telling them not to visit family even though restrictions were being eased for 24 hours. There was a MASSIVE backlash. 2 organisation wide meetings where people said they were felt lectured and condescended to. It wasn’t pretty.)

        You are doing the right thing letting the family know so that they can make an informed choice. But the upshot of that conversation should then be that they decide whether or not your partner visits that week, or to bring an alternative carer or muddle through alone for a spell. What should NOT happen is that they then start dictating what you and your partner need to do to meet their requirements. You do as you see fit, and let them make the call.

        Now, the result of this may be that your partner’s loss of income is so significant that you can’t afford to take that hit. If you’d rather continue to quarantine from one another in order to preserve income, then by all means continue to do so. But this is YOUR call to make as a couple, not something they have a right to demand. The end result may ultimately be the same, but I would encourage you to frame it as a choice you make in order to maximise earnings from the client, rather than a demand they make and you feel pressured to concede. And your partner can approach the conversation as such: “Oh, LW is attending X. Here is how we plan to handle any exposure risk. Let me know if you would like me to visit next week or if you would rather leave it for a while.” It might not make the situation any better, but it might help to at least frame it in a way that feels like your choice rather than an order coming from someone who really has no standing to issue it.

  10. LemonLyman*

    Re #2 – There have been a lot of viral videos where an off duty employee does something terrible while wearing the company logo or ID tag (i.e., goes on a racist rant, demeans another human being, storms the Capitol, etc.). I think the video they used in the training is a mellow example without having to have a real actor pretend they are doing one of the above.

    1. MK*

      On the other hand, I think the OP is downplaying the bad optics of the example. Being passed out on a park bench is hardly “innocuous”, it’s hardly a common social activity like drinking at a bar (used to be, anyway). It’s not the most egregious thing you could do while wearing a company shirt, but maybe pay attention to what behaviour your company expects from you on social media, and plan accordingly.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Exactly. I think a photo of you holding a beer is innocuous and you shouldn’t get in trouble for it (though you probably should be mindful of what you’re wearing), but appearing to be passed out drunk is a whole different level.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, unless you’re a teacher. At least in the US, teachers are held to impossibly high standards. They can and have been get fired for posting a selfie with a drink in front of them. I guess I’m glad I live in a country where the vast majority of people recognize that teachers are people with a right to a private life. I can’t imagine a teacher here getting fired for posting a vacation pic with a drink. It would probably be unwise to post the pic on a teaching platform where their students could see it, but on general social media where only their friends can see it? Why not. Most teachers I know, if they use social media at all, are very firm about not friending the parents of their students. Parent-teacher contacts are handled through an app at my son’s school. It has a texting feature, and contains info about assignments, homework, grades, etc.

          1. Delta Delta*

            Yep. I’m acquainted with a woman who is a teacher and lives in a very conservative area. She had some difficulty with her work because she was in a photo and she was near something that appeared to be a beer bottle.

          2. doreen*

            The problem is that “only their friends can see it” often isn’t the case in the US I’m sure most teachers don’t friend the parents of their students – but that doesn’t mean that in a small community the teacher’s cousin ( who who can see and share the vacation picture with a drink ) isn’t friends with the student’s grandmother and so on. I’m sure all social media has settings that only allow your friends to see your photos – but I’m equally sure that the teachers who have gotten in trouble didn’t have their settings such that only actual friends could see/share the photos. Maybe the posts were more public ( I know their used to be a setting where “friends of friends” could see Facebook posts) or maybe the teachers had “friends” that they don’t really know – but don’t think an actual friend would spread the photo that could get the teacher in trouble.
            Which doesn’t at all mean I’m in favor of firing teachers for that sort of photo – but there are situations that I’ve heard of where different people in different jobs got fired “because of” a social media post and invariably it turns out that either the post was public and someone accidently came across it, or more often the friends were coworkers who were disturbed by the contents of the post and reported it.

        2. Observer*

          I think a photo of you holding a beer is innocuous and you shouldn’t get in trouble for it (though you probably should be mindful of what you’re wearing), but appearing to be passed out drunk is a whole different level.

          Yeah. The two are wildly different. The idea that people get in trouble for being seen with alcohol is ridiculous in most contexts. Passed out drunk? Totally different thing. The company is absolutely right.

          OP, when you are representing the company, you need to be have like an adult, not a teen on spring break (or worse).

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I didn’t quite understand why OP was “taken aback” by this – I actually think that kind of picture is quite a good fictitious example to use because it’s not outstandingly horrible but not completely benign, either.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree – you’d assume everyone knows that they shouldn’t post photos/videos of themselves doing anything really extreme, like breaking the law, but people maybe wouldn’t think hard enough about things like ‘pictured passed out drunk wearing a company t-shirt’. And if it’s important to the company that their staff aren’t pictured passed out drunk in public while wearing company merch, then they absolutely do have the right to point it out. I’m definitely not one for employers policing their employees’ social media, and I don’t see any problem whatsoever with people posting photos of themselves drinking or wearing a bikini or whatever, but even I can see that it doesn’t reflect well on the company to have their name and logo associated with someone being blind drunk on a park bench.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, and I suspect that cocktail in hand in a nice bar would be less of an issue than can of beer in hand on a park bench, too, for a lot of employers ( however unreasonable that might be in terms of actual levels of intoxication! )

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. I don’t see any issue with the example used. I think it’s actually a good example based on some of the things I’ve seen come across my social media over the years. People still either do not know how to use their privacy settings or think they shouldn’t need to, much less know not to post stuff like this if they’re worried about their employer/coworkers seeing it. My nieces and nephews are really good examples of this.

        3. LW2*

          Yeah in retrospect, I think the biggest reason I had that kind of “wth?” reaction was to do with the lead-in to the scenario. (I didn’t put that in my letter tho, cause — word count.)
          The video started with HR Lady calling “Marvin” into her office to talk, then starting with this whole, “So, how was your weekend? Seems like you must’ve had a good time– big bachelor party, right?” To which Marvin was like “Uh… how did you know that…?”
          The whole thing felt very uncomfortable, as if you’re now wondering whether HR spends their time Facebook stalking all their employees.
          It’s a very low-stakes question, and of course probably mostly due to the fact that these training videos don’t exactly have the highest quality of writers and actors.
          But I just couldn’t help but wonder what Alison would think!

          1. Allonge*

            Just to say it’s awesome to have some low-stakes questions sometimes, inbetween all the world is on fire and my employer/ee is trying to kill me ones!

            As someone who made internal communications videos in the past: if you want to, let HR know that the message was not really clear here, they will most likely be happy to hear some feedback and maybe they can focus more on the company shirt than the party the next time they update these videos.

          2. Observer*

            It sounds like they could use a better writer for their scripts. But, it sounds to me like they were trying to make another point as well – Do NOT ever assume that something posted on social media won’t get back to your employer.

          3. Smithy*

            The larger context of the video makes sense – but I think the larger reality is that most company’s social media policies are written in a way to provide a lot of leeway. Essentially to offer them a lot of flexibility in how they respond.

            Is this a social media post that we feel is a potential liability, but has three likes on Facebook and we know about it because a coworker flagged it? Or a Sr VP flagged it? Or does it have 30 likes, 3 retweets, and a vendor flagged it? Ten customers flagged it? Or has it gone regionally/nationally viral?

            All of those pieces – in addition to the content itself – are going to factor into how an employer chooses to respond. And being a bit more severe in training videos likely helps give themselves a lot more flexibility where there aren’t exactly redlines.

            1. Smithy*

              I will add, that if there are situations where the guidelines are more intense for a situation someone might interpret as innocuous – it does behoove the employer to be more direct around exactly what they don’t want people doing and why.

              As someone who works in a nonprofit, we get a lot of direction, inclusive of social media – regarding elections. For a 501c3, this is how any given nonprofit employer interprets the US laws, how risk averse they are, and how at risk they are. Because the reasons are so clear, it helps in how it’s interpreted.

      3. Bagpuss*

        It’s also the combination of caption and photo. Photo of someone lying on a park bench doesn’t automatically = drunk, but photo plus the caption about a bachelor weekend does.

        I think the training was making a valid point -be aware of how your social media looks (and y’know, don’t get drunk while wearing your company’s logo and then post pictures)

        1. Smithy*

          Right – if anything, I think this was a really good example around how otherwise innocuous social media posts can become problematic social media posts to a company.

          I used to work for a nonprofit that had celebrity ambassadors, and it was just well known that the most famous of those ambassadors should essentially never be talked about by anyone representing the organization except for select/approved few. At one point a staff member on the social media team went on vacation and captioned a photo of her friend as #MostFamousCelebrity. Because she was someone on the social media team, her private accounts were openly followed by other staff members on the social media team – and that post got her into a lot of trouble. The nonprofit took a high risk assessment of either making fun of most famous celebrity or trading in on the proximity to the celeb, and while this coworker didn’t get fired – they did get into a lot of trouble.

          Social media is clearly used by companies as a facet of their Coms/PR – and if anything I think it’s a kindness to give staff insight on how they can best avoid inserting themselves into their workplace’s PR. Intentionally or otherwise.

      4. hbc*

        Yeah, I think the messaging was off, either OP’s read on it or the delivery. No one cares if a McDonald’s employee has personal pictures showing him being rowdy or dumb or whatnot. But if he’s doing it while wearing his McDonald’s uniform, anyone who sees that picture is going to make the association to the company.

        I don’t believe our employers own us in our unpaid time away from work, but you are absolutely representing the company while you’re wearing the employee gear.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t believe our employers own us in our unpaid time away from work, but you are absolutely representing the company while you’re wearing the employee gear.

          Yup. Which is a good reason to NOT wear company branded gear when you’re off work.

      5. Name of Requirement*

        Agreed. I’m curious what would be inappropriate if passed out drunk outside is benign.

      6. TootsNYC*


        Holding a beer might be ok, but passed out in public?
        That is not what I’d call “innocuous.”
        In fact, I think it’s good that HR’s only problem is that the logo on the shirt was visible.

        And I agree w/ Alison–take off your work shirt when work is over.

      7. A*

        Yup – and to Alison’s point the most straight forward solution is to not wear clothing with the company logo on it when socializing. Especially given that the example used was a photo posted by a friend. If you are engaging in behavior that could be viewed negatively if associated with your employer, and have a social group where it’s considered acceptable to post/tag photos of you without your prior knowledge and consent (AND without realizing how it could come across negatively)… then you need to be proactive.

    2. Nicotene*

      I do think it’s funny that my prior company gave out *so much swag* – branded shirts, jackets, hats, luggage (?) etc – probably because they were getting some kind of sweetheart deal and used it to buy these items as the employee holiday gift – but then still had these moments of panic about people actually *wearing* the branded gear somewhere that the company didn’t appreciate (in our case, at protests; that was the summer of the women’s march). How did you not consider this before you decided to make your young employees walking billboards for your brand???

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I have plenty of swag from *previous* companies and some of it is good quality so I still use it. At this point they really have no leverage to stop me from using it since they can’t fire me now. I guess they could threaten to not hire me if I’m job searching in the future, but that’s about it.

      2. Joan Rivers*

        True, but it says something about our culture if young employees can’t avoid being photographed in the co. logo while drunk, or at a protest. You don’t have to be a walking billboard for anyone. You could burn every bit of corporate “swag” if you want. Donate it to a homeless shelter. You can wear your own clothes and you can drink w/o passing out, if you want to.

        1. ggg*

          Companies give out swag all the time to people who don’t even work there. There are undoubtedly plenty of social media photos of random people misbehaving in, say, free Google shirts.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I have been the point of contact re: social media complaints. If someone can trace you to a company, they can make a complaint to that company. Your company may not do anything about it, but there are also times when the attention and scrutiny is warranted. Nobody wants the bad PR of a bad employee. Lock down your posts, scrub your account of references to the company, and keep company logo items home or in the office.

  11. TechWorker*

    Honestly every time I’ve gotten a raise or a bonus all I’ve said is a pretty neutral ‘thanks’ – my company doesn’t have great pay transparency and all raises/bonuses are somehow tied to how well the company is doing which, whilst public info, it isn’t obvious how that translates into budget for raises/promotions/bonuses. All this means is I generally don’t have a good idea of whether the number given is good or bad, especially not in the room at the time. (I might do after if I look up payscales and ask around).

    1. Cat Tree*

      My company recently started listing the pay bracket for the job level right on the paper listing the raise. There’s quite a variety that falls into “senior individual contributor” so the range is wide enough to drive a bus through, but I’m still glad to see it.

    2. TechWriter*

      Ah yes, fellow tech worker, also familiar with the “well times are tough for our hugely profitable company, so just because we had a great quarter, doesn’t mean other business units did, so no focals this year, sorry!”

      It’s neat.

  12. Tara*

    LW5, my company is exactly the same. I took the advice of co-workers and was very neutral, but then my manager said he was surprised I wasn’t happier, and a bit disappointed because I was the best bonus/raise conversation he was going to have! I awkwardly laughed and said, “well if I let you know I’m happy with X amount, how would I ever get anything higher?”. These conversations are rough, as there isn’t room for negotiation I kind of wish they’d just send me a letter and then we could discuss whether amounts etc. are appropriate once there’d been some internal processing time during the performance reviews.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s so bizarre to me to sit there and have someone read it off the paper. That’s just awkward. Just give me the damn paper.

    2. BeansenRice*

      I wondered if LW5 and I work for the same corporation. I’m very happy to hear I’m not the only one who finds these conversations awkward and was happy to hear Alison’s advice. I’m grateful that this year the bonus/raise convo was done over the phone (and not in person or Webex with video). When my manger said “congratulations!” I really wasn’t sure how to react.

    3. AnonPi*

      Yeah I’d prefer they just hand me the print out and go on. It’s not like sitting down and talking about it will change anything. If anything my managers either try to justify why it’s so low, or tell me how if I just keep taking on more and more work one day I may get a raise. So I just try to hurry things along and say ok thanks, take the handout, and get up and leave.

      Then there was the incident where grandboss said I didn’t come across as very grateful for my “raise” (it wasn’t a raise, it was just the usual COL increase), and lied about how hard they had worked to get me that increase (HR determines these, with a review/ok by the dept director above my grandboss). By that point I had taken on so much extra work under shitty work conditions, and had been told the previous year I’d probably get a raise the next year, if I could have quit then I would have. Even my new middle manager (who had sat in on the meeting) told me later that they could feel the room drop 20 degrees after that, lol

  13. It's not the cost, it's the pandemic*

    Re slow internet — mine is really unbelievably slow even though I live in a big city, because I still have DSL. I want to upgrade, and I need to for work, but I haven’t. Not because I can’t afford it, but because I am not letting a cable person etc in here during the pandemic. My partner and I are very high risk and I’m just not doing it. I’ve looked into having higher speed without having a person come in and at least where I live it’s not an option.

    1. Poster #3*

      Tres interressant!! I hadn’t considered this risk as a factor. Thanks for your input!

      1. It's not the cost, it's the pandemic*

        ps I did send away for a new modem and that helped some.
        Good luck!

  14. kicking-k*

    LW4, your situation is very (spookily!) close to mine. I have a great boss, and she arranged a partial furlough for me (I’m in the UK, so this means I get paid 80% for the days I would usually work but currently don’t). It’s helped but I am still exhausted. I’m holding on to the idea of some planned downtime once the current lockdown is over – I hope you can do that, though you may not know when that will be. Good luck.

    1. OP4*