where’s the line on religious accommodation, my boss says she can see work is “wearing” on me, and more

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

1. Where’s the line on religious accommodation?

I was curious about where the line is on religious accommodation, and at what point it’s okay to say an accommodation cannot be made. Also, I know for many things you recommend that candidates let the hiring team know of any accommodations they need at the offer stage (which makes perfect sense) but what if they don’t say anything until their first couple of weeks?

I had an employee who needed an accommodation that allowed them to take lunch at a different time from the rest of the company once a week. This was somewhat inconvenient but I was able to accommodate them. Later they let me know that they were going to need additional accommodations, which again were doable but inconvenient. I also noticed that their work performance suffered during certain times when they told me they needed to fast for their religion. I felt that I couldn’t bring this up as I was worried about being accused of violating a religious accommodation. They didn’t make me aware of any of these needed accommodations until they’d been hired and working for a couple of weeks. At one point it was suggested that in order for me to accommodate this employee I would need to work additional hours (unpaid as I am salaried and exempt). I was able to push back on that but it was stressful and I had to use some capital I don’t think I should have had to use.

I was able to accommodate this employee with minimal frustration, but what if it hadn’t been as easy? What if there’d been a standing meeting that they were needed for during the time they needed to take their lunch that couldn’t be easily moved? I want to be as supportive and flexible as possible but at what point am I able to say “this goes past reasonable”?

The law says employers must accommodate employees’ religious needs unless it would cause “undue hardship.” The bar for undue hardship is pretty high — generally something that’s costly, compromises people’s safety, requires others to do more than their share of difficult or undesirable work, or infringes on other employees’ rights. Moving a meeting likely doesn’t meet that bar, although you having to work more hours probably would.

If the person’s work performance suffered when they were fasting, I’d look at how you handle it when someone else’s work performance suffers because they’re sick, tired, hungry, etc. Presumably you figure that everyone has ups and downs and unless it becomes a pattern, it’s generally just part of working with humans. (I’m assuming the fasting periods were relatively rare. If they weren’t, then you’d address the performance issues just like you would any other — no need to bring the fasting into it.)

But it’s absolutely fine that the employee didn’t address the accommodations they needed until a few weeks on the job. There’s no requirement, ethical or legal, that they address it earlier than that. (Keep in mind that you can’t legally rescind a job offer over it, so there’s no real reason you needed to hear it earlier; it’s fine for them to raise it when they’re comfortable raising it.)

2. My boss says she can see that work is “wearing” on me

Due to financial constraints because of the pandemic, half of my team was laid off. I am in the only remaining senior role on the team, and have taken on the work of the other senior people who were laid off, as well as seeing a general increase in workload because of having fewer people. My workload has dramatically increased, as have my managerial and mentor responsibilities.

I’ve taken this work on with as positive and optimistic an attitude as possible. Frankly, though, I’m feeling burnt out and am frustrated by the lack of support. My boss (female) regularly comments on my (also female) appearance over video calls, saying that I look tired or that she can see the work is “wearing” on me. Once, she even said she could see my “life force” was being taken away. I find it demoralizing, and can’t help but think it’s gendered BS. I’ve gotten to the point of “touching up my appearance” on Zoom, and am considering wearing light makeup though I haven’t worn makeup in over a decade. I also make a point to dress professionally on calls, though most of my company now dresses casually in our still all remote environment.

I feel like these comments are a stand-in for acknowledging that I’ve been put in a difficult spot and have very different job responsibilities than I did pre-pandemic (with the same pay and title). I’m not sure how to redirect these comments into productive conversation. Help?

What if the next time she says this, you respond with, “Yeah, my workload is really high. I’d love to talk about solutions for that, or an adjustment to my pay and title!” I bet she stops the comments.

Alternately, you could sit down with her and say, “You’ve commented a lot recently that it looks like work is wearing on me. It’s true that the layoffs and additions to my workload have really increased the demands on me. I’ve tried to be as positive as I can, but do your comments indicate you have a concern we should talk about?” And then at some point in that conversation, you could consider saying, “I appreciate you acknowledging that I’m in a difficult spot. If you expect that to continue, could we talk about how to approach my title and salary so they match this higher level I’m contributing at?”

3. Employer uses a fact-based matrix for setting pay

I have been job searching for a while, and I ran into something on a position that I applied for recently that I have never encountered before. The role is posted on the website with the starting salary range (which I think is great!). What is unusual is that they also have a document outlining how a candidate will be placed within that range based on their level of experience and qualifications. For example, the minimum requirement for management experience is three years, and for each additional year of experience beyond that a candidate would earn an additional $500, with a cap of $3,000 for that particular requirement, and you can earn an additional $4,000 for a certification that is preferred but not required, etc. I talked with the hiring manager about this, and they stated that they no longer negotiate starting salaries at the organization, but instead use a matrix like this to assign the salary, and that this is part of their diversity and inclusion efforts to promote equity in starting salaries, since it is no longer dependent on the candidate’s ability to negotiate or the manager’s discretion, which can introduce bias.

I personally really appreciate this approach, as I feel that it is transparent and fact-based, and if I am being honest with myself, I also like it because I really dislike salary negotiations, which I think that might be coloring my perception. I know that you advocate for negotiating salaries, and would love to hear what you think of this way of doing things. Do you think this is a valid approach to improving salary equity, or do you see it as a red flag?

I don’t think it’s a red flag! I advocate trying to negotiate your salary because that’s usually the system we’re in (most employers don’t have this kind of fact-based matrix and instead are very loosey-goosey about how they set salaries). But I’m all for employers moving in this direction — it’s transparent, fair, and a strong counter against the well-documented unconscious bias that often introduces pay inequities along race and gender lines.

That said, I’d like to see a way to structure it that goes beyond years of experience and education/certifications. Those things don’t always correlate to actual work achievements, so ideally you’d want a way to build in an objective assessment of the results people have achieved in their work. (In fact, I’d argue that should carry the most weight of all, but then we’re potentially moving back into more subjective territory.)

4. My boss won’t mark my work as complete

We work with task management software that allows us to track the status of the team’s tasks. Generally, my tasks are sent over to my manager for review after I finish them. However, he never marks them as completed (even when they are fully done), so it seems to the rest of the team and my grandboss that my output is low. (I’m the only one whose work he’s responsible for marking as done.)

I tried asking him to mark them as completed and he said he would. In a separate conversation, he mentioned that marking my tasks as complete was on his to-do list. Despite all this, the tasks are still not marked complete. Is there anything else you would suggest doing?

Have you specifically told him that you’re concerned this is making you appear unproductive to others, including to his boss? If you didn’t spell that out, mention it now. I’d probably add, “If realistically it’s hard for you to get to them, is there something else I can do to combat that perception? Could we give me the authority to mark them as done myself, or could you mention to Jane that the software isn’t a good reflection of how much I’m doing?” If he’s not up for either of those … well, you could mention at a team meeting that the software doesn’t reflect what you’ve finished and if anyone has questions about the status of any of your projects, they should check with you.

But that’s about all that’s within your control. I wouldn’t necessarily worry about it terribly beyond that, though; this isn’t uncommon with this kind of software (and presumably if your grandboss does have concerns about your output, she’ll ask about it … or at least one would hope).

5. Job applications that ask if you’re available for evenings, weekends, or overtime

When a job application asks you to check whether you are available for evening shifts, weekend shifts, or overtime if needed, are there real ramifications for saying no if the position does not explicitly state that nights, weekends, or overtime may be required? Do they want you to be honest and does it really matter what you say?

I am trying to get away from nights and weekends, and I certainly am not interested in overtime. I don’t think this particular position would actually warrant that; I think the application is generic, but I could be wrong. I am inclined to check no for everything.

They do want you to be honest! If it turns out they need nights/weekends/overtime and you’ve checked no, that’s just going to waste everyone’s time.

It gets trickier when you’d mostly rather not work nights/weekends/overtime but you’re willing to do it on occasion if it’s really needed; those forms don’t usually give a good way to signal that. If it’s an option, you could write in “would discuss,” but otherwise you’re stuck having to give a blanket yes or no even if neither of those capture it perfectly.

Regardless of all that, it’s always something you can ask about in the interview if you get to that stage.

{ 610 comments… read them below }

  1. Tussy*

    My mum (who had a lot of Muslim employees) and my aunt (who lived in the Middle East for a decade) always used to not look forward to Ramadan before they retired. It was always harder to get things done but they both said that it was just something you had to account for, like you might account for summer or Christmas.

    1. mutinyonthebeagle*

      I think this is a good point – it’s very culturally acceptable in the west for output to change around mainstream holidays such as Xmas or Easter so probably best to view special occasions like that.
      It can be easy to think (and I’m guilty of this too) that it would be better if everyone acted the same but then we’d miss out on the benefits of diverse opinions and thoughts and would have a dull workplace and world!

      1. Maxie*

        Excellent point. Many businesses accept that little work will get done in December when there is only a single one day Christian holiday in the month. Why should someone be punished by being less productive during Ramadan? When I was an adjunct prof, so constantly teaching at new colleges and universities, some department chairs were put out that I took off for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.

        1. Kit*

          My old boss once actually told me that it was terribly inconvenient for her to have two whole Jewish employees because we both needed the same religious holidays off, and she didn’t know what she’d been thinking. I was, at the time, in my early 20s and so flabbergasted I didn’t say anything, but that kind of response to accommodating any non-Christian religious schedule is incredibly common in most majority-Christian countries.

          I will take OP1 at their word that they didn’t come at this from a position of deliberate bias, but the reaction from both OP and their management is exactly the sort of unconscious discrimination many of us hope to avoid by not disclosing our need for religious accommodations until we’re sure it’s necessary. Having one’s faith and the practices thereof being treated as an inconvenience is upsetting, even if it’s normalized.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        It goes beyond opinions and thoughts as well. My team has a lot of parents on it, I am not one of them. Overall, it works really well that I tend to holiday outside of the usual school holiday times.

        I get to save money and travel at times when the weather tends to be better, they don’t have to consider coverage overly much, everyone ends up happy*.

        Same thing around Christmas, I grew up Eastern Orthodox, so even if I do travel to see family etc. it’s no hardship for me to work full/half days around those weeks. I save holiday for when I actually want to use it, my coworkers have to worry about coverage less.

        *This only works because no one is forced into it. If I wanted to take holiday in August, I could, no one would ever say anything.

      3. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, this is exactly what I was coming here to say. People don’t blink when many of us are less productive around our holidays because we think of it as the norm. This new employee may not need the same holidays as others on the office which is terrific when you want coverage!

      4. Smithy*

        Exactly what I was coming to say. When the holidays you celebrate are outside the mainstream calendar, those dips or distractions may be more noticable but ultimately are far more aligned with like the Thanksgiving to Christmas period in the US.

        When I worked in Israel, during the weeks of Sukkot and Pesach for Jews and Ramadan for Muslims, depending on your faith – you only worked a 5 hour day. I always found that to be a good balance of not entirely closing down for an entire holiday period while affording more flexibility.

    2. Richard*

      Good point. Most American and European offices are prepared to operate at reduced capacity for summer and December-early January, depending a lot on industry and office culture. No reason not to prepare similarly for folks on a different holiday/holy day schedule.
      I’m working with fasting students during this Ramadan and seeing the effects, but it doesn’t really cost anything to give them a little flexibility on their timelines as their sleep and attention schedules are significantly different right now.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I didn’t see anything massively inconvenient in the letter. It does seem like the accommodations may be negatively coloring the LW’s view of this employee, where someone not being available for two weeks at Christmas might be similar but not viewed negatively.

      2. yala*

        My mom is pentecostal and iirc her church fasts every Monday. Not sure if she still does or not, but I definitely remember that being a Thing when she first joined.

      3. Lacey*

        The timing makes me think they are Muslim, but you’re right that this could come up for multiple religions. I live in a super Catholic area so Lent is a big thing and when I was a kid it was really common for people in my Evangelical church to have a time of fasting. I know it’s present in other religions as well, but I don’t know as much about it.

      4. JillianNicola*

        It kind of sounds like you have some serious, serious bias against non-Christian religions, or for whatever other reason feel persecuted, based on this and all your other comments (intriguing also that you’ve ONLY commented on this issue and not the other four). I think you need to take a step away from this discussion and sit with yourself a minute, and ask yourself why you’re reacting in this manner and why you feel so threatened. It’s not going to be an answer anyone here can give you.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Who was this directed to? It’s posted it in a thread of reples to Richard, but it doesn’t jive with the accepting attitude toward his fasting students that he posted about.

          I’m thinking it may have been directed to o.p. #1, but if so, it would have been better as a separate post. Then again, we’ve had weird nesting fails here lots of times, where people’s posts have shown up in the wrong places. I’m going to assume that’s what this was. :-D

    3. Wendy*

      Yep! There’s also no reason you can’t (respectfully and having at least done a bit of Googling ahead of time) offer if alternative accommodations would work. “I’ve noticed that around the time you’re fasting and observing X religious holiday, XYZ isn’t getting done in as accurate manner as it needs to be. I totally understand – it’s hard to concentrate while hungry! Given how this is causing a problem for your coworkers downstream on your project, though, would it be possible for us to shuffle these projects around so the super-detail-sensitive ones come first thing in the morning and the more flexible ones in the afternoon? Would that help?”

      (Note: I have never managed anyone who observed religious fasting, so maybe this isn’t the issue at all, but you don’t HAVE to accept the very first solution the employee suggests as the only answer!)

      1. Ada*

        Maybe even offer flexible working hours, if that’s an option. My husband is fasting right now, and he’ll often get some work done in the morning, nap in the afternoon when his energy starts to crash, and pick up where he left off after sundown when he has some food in his system. (Granted, he isn’t employed right now, so he’s able to set his own schedule, but if he were, I think he’d appreciate having the option.)

      2. Xarcady*

        My brother was sent overseas by his employer to a job where he supervised mostly Muslim employees. Dear Brother admits that he got a bit annoyed with the number of, “But I’m fasting!” explanations for just about everything, especially when they came in the first few hours of the day, when he knew they had just eaten breakfast—it was winter, the days were short.

        Finally, halfway through the month, when the work was not getting done, he revealed to his employees that his wife is Muslim and out of respect to her, he was fasting also, even though he is not Muslim. And yet was able to get through his work in a timely fashion.

        Half the crew respected him for this, they other half thought he did it to trick them.

    4. LabTechNoMore*

      I usually don’t even mention that I’m fasting for Ramadan because I don’t want management-level folks like LW#1 to draw attention to the fact that my productivity is down that month, or make the connection to my religion (most workplaces are oblivious enough to not realize it is Ramadan, or know what the month entails). For what it’s worth, my productivity being down that month also helps keeps my productivity up the rest of the year. (Also I’m assuming LW#1 is referring to Ramadan as the “altered lunch schedule” is probably just referring to a 5-10 min break to pray during the times we’re supposed to.) Honestly, the whole question left a bad taste in my mouth.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          It’s problematic because whether religious needs are considered a burden is directly connected to whether they’re “mainstream.” And we all have unproductive periods for reasons ranging from holidays to family situations to medical conditions; I suppose fasting feels different because it’s voluntary but that doesn’t mean this employee is drastically different than, say, the coworker who got a new puppy and is exhausted because of all the midnight walks.

          OP meant well, and I’m glad they wrote in for advice! But I will admit that the way it was phrased made it sound like their first reaction was to say “do I really have to accommodate this?” rather than “how can I make this work?”

          1. pancakes*

            Yes. I’m not clear on what part of the letter means: “At one point it was suggested that in order for me to accommodate this employee I would need to work additional hours (unpaid as I am salaried and exempt).” Suggested by who? The employee themselves? Your supervisor? Or . . . ?

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I’m curious to know more about that as well–like how many hours and why–because everything else sounds so easy to accommodate that I am wondering if maybe this piece caused them so much frustration that it has left them feeling frustrated at the whole thing?

            2. Lacey*

              I wondered that too! If the employee suggested it, I understand why that would have soured the LW on the whole thing – even though this is a pretty normal thing to accommodate. If it’s management, they’re just being ridiculous. That would also make me mad, but not at the employee!

            3. Tobias Funke*

              Also, usually, when “working extra hours unpaid” comes up for exempt and salaried people, they are told that’s part of what exempt and salaried means.

              1. Arvolin*

                I was happier working extended hours when I got paid for it, personally. I’d put in additional hours as necessary when on salary, but much more reluctantly.

            4. A Poster Has No Name*

              Given that the LW said they needed to burn capital to avoid working the extra hours, I’m assuming it was management above them that suggested it, but that’s just a guess.

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

            fasting feels different because it’s voluntary but that doesn’t mean this employee is drastically different than, say, the coworker who got a new puppy and is exhausted because of all the midnight walks

            That is an interesting point — how (if at all) should it be addressed if the cause of poor performance at work is (e.g.) a new puppy keeping someone up all night, or due to being “hangry” due to fasting on a fad diet (To be clear I’m not equating religious fasting with a ‘fad diet’ obviously! I mean like the ones you see in celebrity magazines where they lost weight by following this ‘starvation for 2 days and then eating on day 3’ plan…)

            Could a manager say to the person – you need to make alternative arrangements for the puppy, you need to stop doing this fad diet, etc because it’s impacting too much on work performance? (You can if the problem is that the person is always ‘out of it’ due to being hungover and tired but it isn’t an addiction type of problem it’s just that they like to party too much, or whatever. How is it different?)

            1. Caterpie*

              I was wondering that too. A few jobs ago I had a coworker that tried all the “fad diets” (keto, paleo, gluten free [they were not celiac or intolerant], and intermittent fasting). Coworker was noticeably ‘hangry’ on some of these diets and took it out on less senior staff.

              They viewed the diets as a medical need, so I’m wondering how a similar situation would be handled compared to one due to a religious accommodation.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                People do this in an attempt to fix health problems that doctors aren’t helping with, such as allergies or IBS. To do this successfully, the person needs to understand nutritional needs and make sure their needs are met to stay healthy.
                So that might help in understanding and supporting someone doing this but as AnxietyRobot says below, the best way is to address their productivity problems and not their personal life.

            2. Nettie*

              It is drastically different though, at least under U.S. law. Religion is treated differently than other categories.

            3. Clorinda*

              I don’t think so. You can call out the behavior but not the reason. “You fell asleep at your desk and missed this important meeting” is the problem, not “you’ve eaten nothing but three sticks of celery and a chicken breast since Tuesday.”

            4. AnxietyRobot*

              I think the important thing is, managers should never be dictating to employees how they should live their personal lives, nor do they need to. If someone is having issues at work, best practice is to stick to discussing the work issue, and stay far away from speculating on personal reasons for the changes. Managers really don’t have enough information to make those kind of calls, and there’s way toouch of a chance of saying something inappropriate/inoffensive and derailing the conversation from the real matter– the work that needs to be improved.

          3. Quickbeam*

            +1. I asked for *one hour* a month off to drive to the sanctuary where I participate in full moon circles. and then only in weeks when it fell on a week day. This is a company that generous approach to anyone with a Christian holiday issue. But my one hour request was met with a lot of push back. And skepticism.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Yeah, I’m experiencing this at work with Jewish holidays, because even though I live in a large, diverse metropolitan area, being part of a religion whose holidays don’t always fall on a Sunday seems to blow people’s minds.

              1. Jew, Annoyed*

                Yes, people treat non-Christian holidays as some sort of superspecial accommodation and I am just fed up with it. All the school districts in my area scheduled the first day of school for Rosh Hashanah for next year (because apparently not one of them bothered to consult a calendar, despite this being a large metro area), and it took a year of activism on the part of the Jewish community here to get the first day moved.

              2. Lynda*

                We had a doctor who was Jewish, and he very graciously took the on-call shifts for others’ holidays. Then, one pay period, he noticed that he was only given “weekend” credit, not “holiday weekend” credit.
                He was told that since it wasn’t “his” holiday, Christmas shifts wouldn’t be given the extra day off. They would not reconsider.
                Gasket blown, and staff wrote a petition to Grand Vizier Overboss. Who stormed down and did some really loud shouting, with fist pounding when they told him that it wasn’t in the employee manual or the doctor’s contract.
                He made the most snippy of that office take every copy of the handbook and write a Religions and Beliefs Accommodation BY HAND in the right section.
                About 100 of those manuals.

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  I honestly gasped after reading this – glad someone went ballistic, because that seems like the only appropriate response to docking someone’s pay for being a religious minority. (And yet I wager money they didn’t give him holiday credit pay for working on Jewish holidays, just docked his pay for the Christian ones.)

              3. MassMatt*

                IMO having schools observe diverse holidays is an excellent learning opportunity and way to combat xenophobia.

                My school was predominantly Christian but with a large enough Jewish population that major Jewish holidays were observed. More than once I overheard people say things like “what’s this “yum kipper” next week?” And beam when they hear “Jewish holiday, no school”. A little harder to be an anti-Semite when you get the holidays off.

              4. Knope Knope Knope*

                Yeah I live in NYC and I did a *HEAVY* eye roll about the part about accommodating slower work performance during fasting. Like really? Productivity grinds to a halt every December for Christmas at every company I have ever worked at, and it definitely has nothing to do with Hanukkah

            2. GS*

              I wish so much I had the courage to ask for accommodation around the solstices. However, I do not. Kudos to you.

                1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                  And don’t even get me started on people who assume that paganism is the same as Satanism…sigh!
                  I usually explain the difference by saying that Satan is a figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (there actually are a few more, but those three are the best known) but NOT in paganism. Just as Jews, Christians and Muslims don’t worship Ra, Thor, Artemis, Jupiter or Brigit, pagans don’t worship Satan. (Please, folks, take 5 minutes to Google a religion’s core beliefs before going off on a tangent and accusing them of worshipping evil!)

                2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  @marzipan — just out of curiosity, where should I start reading? One of my friends is Pagan but follows a Norse pantheon (it has been a long time since we talked specifics but I remember that was part of it, and the altar). Another is Pagan but has an ancestor-worship element to hers. Another was Pagan but also followed a Gaia/Mother belief system.

                  I would never assume it was Satan but it seems like there are a lot of individualized beliefs, and it is hard to know what websites are “good” and which seem good but the community might view as suspect.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’ve tried, but got the label of ‘that weird hippy’ (nothing against hippies but I’m not one) for all the solstices. Although I can usually get Samhain off IF I put the request in before all the people with kids who want to go trick or treating.

                Summer solstice falls within our busiest time and even though I live just up the road from Stonehenge I’ve never managed to make it to the ceremonies. No, I’m not bitter…./s

            3. Annie Nymous*

              Fascinating user name you have there…
              Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Quickbeam Circle was my introduction to the craft.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I didn’t think the LW was as okay with this employee’s request as she claimed. She wrote ‘I was able to accommodate this employee with minimal frustration, but what if it hadn’t been as easy?’ But her letter read like she was quite frustrated, and that she didn’t think it was easy to support her employee.

          Also, I wonder if she’d feel differently if she was accomodating an employee during a holiday she also observed.

          1. Anon for this*

            Very much this. And even minor accommodations can, over time, become incredibly frustrating. My tiny, hilariously overworked team has been tolerating how overworked we are for so long because everyone on the team gives it their all, 100% of the time. One of my coworkers is starting to check out mentally and be sloppy, and it is definitely aggravating the others who now have to pick up the pieces from the (many) messes they’re making, but at least their current status is a one off, not to be expected to happen again. If any of my coworkers was to quit and be replaced with someone for whom picking up the messes became something I had to do because of an accommodation for them, I would likely quit, simply because I’m already hovering on the edge of too exhausted to function, and anything more would be too much to bear (granted, this is a dysfunctional workplace that I will probably be leaving in a few months, a normal workplace probably wouldn’t have a workload distribution that would make things go from miserable but bearable to impossible with something so small, but still, some places are like that. Like no offense to theoretical coworker whose religious accommodations would theoretically make me quit, it’s just that our terrible manager’s response to anything that places more work on us is “you guys are the best team ever!!!!!! You’re so productive!” and not acknowledging that our workload has reached impossible dimensions and we need more manpower)

            1. ThatGirl*

              This sounds like a giant management problem, though; nobody should need to be on 100% of the time all the time. And obviously you know that, because you plan to leave, but accommodating people’s needs is a good thing.

              1. Anon for this*

                Oh definitely, I only mention it because my manager’s twisted sense of pride in the fact that we’re the best team in the company when we’re literally coming apart at the seams because we’re overworked cannot be unique. Accommodation is a good thing, but managers shouldn’t let their department get to the point where making a reasonable accommodation for one person would break the other people on the team.

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

            her letter read like she was quite frustrated, and that she didn’t think it was easy to support her employee.

            I read between the lines that: there may be some existing issues (not related to religious observance) around workload, expectations on OP to “fill in” around people’s absences because she is salaried and they are hourly, and in general some ‘history’ leading up to her feeling frustrated with the whole situation. Now she has this new employee who has sprung a ‘surprise’ need for accommodations on her. That’s another thing to deal with. Management suggested she accommodate this by adding to her own workload since she is salaried, which she managed to push back on, but now she is wondering what’s the next thing she will have to deal with?

            I haven’t been in the specific situation of “a team member observing a fast / prayer times” causing problems but can definitely relate to the “one more thing” feeling, if that’s what it is. I am part of the majority ‘Christian’ tradition though, and some of our deadlines in the past have been most intensive in December because they related to year end processes and that type of thing. I certainly felt frustrated that things weren’t getting done because they were off that day taking their kid to meet Santa or similar.

          3. Lacey*

            Yeah. It sounded like the LW would really like to be told it’s ok not to accommodate this. But, sometimes doing good things is inconvenient and religious accommodations are a good thing, even when it’s not the kind of accommodation we’re used to.

        3. EPLawyer*

          LW’s reaction to have to accomodate is probably WHY the employee didn’t bring it up before. Sure you can’t legally rescind a job offer because of someone needing religious accomodation, but you can rescind it for a ton of other reasons if you try hard enough. The employee probably encountered this before and learned to wait to raise the issue if they want a job.

          Now the solution is not just dump more work on the manager. If I were the one asking for accomodation, I would be APPALLED if anyone asked for that as a solution. but shuffling projects around for a bit, or stretching deadlines when you can is not unreasonable.

        4. kt*

          There are thousands of words of questioning and discussion here — this “questioning is heresy” bit is a total strawman, a rhetorical device to get people riled up about something that’s not here. Are you really interested in questioning, or do you just want to get your way and quash non-conformity?

          My cousins in Europe just peace out of work for like 4-6 weeks a year, 4 in summer and 2 over Christmas. Somehow despite the moaning and groaning everything gets done. Certainly there is a lot of questioning of those darn European vacation days, even though talking about getting the French to work 50 weeks a year is for sure heresy.

          Managers need to manage performance. It’s that simple, for every manager.

      1. Chas*

        I was getting a bad taste even before he mentioned the fasting. Is it really that much of a problem if someone has a specific hour they need to eat lunch during? It seems a little on the controlling side not to be able to accomodate someone being unavailable at a specific work hour, and their workplace seem to have managed to accomdate this person in the end.

        While I understand it must have been frustrating for LW1 to have to deal with the suggestion of them having to work extra hours to accomodate someone else, I can’t help but wonder if they would still be tracking their coworker’s productivity and getting concerned with hypotheticals if the reason their coworker had some other reason to need these accomodations.

        1. Metadata minion*

          If it’s about servicepoint coverage it can be trickier to accommodate schedule changes, but if one change to a lunch hour is *that* hard to accomplish, it probably means you don’t have enough staff, unless it’s one of those perfect storms where for some reason Thursday 1-2pm is the time nobody can work.

          1. Anonymous Hippo*

            Staff is always the issue. I’m always shocked when I read these kind of letters because to me, it seems ludicrous to expect full 100% work out of anyone 8 hours a day 5 days a week. If that’s what you need, you need more people, because people aren’t machines and they ebb and flow in their usefulness.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          I can’t speak to whatever’s going on with the prayer/lunch thing, but one day a week I take lunch from 11-12 instead of 12-1 to do phone therapy, and sometimes it has been A Problem with people scheduling meetings for me from 10-11 and then they run long, and I don’t want to get myself into trouble by speaking up and saying I need to go.

          What I suspect the real problem is here though, is when you have a servicing the public job and rotating shifts and stuff like that. What time you take lunch is HUUUUUUUUUGE and they would really prefer that you be “flexible” and end up taking lunch from 2-3 p.m. or something some days because half the staff called out again. I really don’t want to have to move my dang lunch and be starving till 2, but when I had to do service hours, that happened all the time. Having an inflexible lunch time is considered A Problem.

      2. Not-So-Coastal Elite*

        It raised my hackles too. The things this LW is complaining about are the exact things I’ve told my Muslim partner to ask for accommodation on. That it is totally reasonable and appropriate to reschedule a Friday lunch meeting so he can go to the mosque and that his coworkers will survive. (I have my own separate religious accommodations to navigate)

        I’m not a fan of the subtext, fasting and a meeting reschedule are so incredibly minor as accommodations go.

      3. Delphine*

        I also don’t mention it, because I don’t want people to make assumptions about my work during Ramadan. My productivity is usually the same or higher (because I just work through lunch to keep myself occupied), but I feel like I’d be scrutinized more than my coworkers if everyone knew I was fasting. Sometimes when people are looking for a weakness in you, they’ll find it. I don’t want to risk that.

    5. NYWeasel*

      Working with a global team, there are plenty of times during the year when one team starts to mentally check out bc of upcoming holidays while another team is trucking along, business as usual. Before I’d even consider this employee’s decreased productivity to be an issue, I’d see if they are stepping up at other times to help out—it can be a huge benefit to having a diverse team so that you can shift work around to allow people flexibility to be able to occasionally deprioritize work in favor of personal interests.

      1. Dea*

        The LW 1 could also speak with the employee and ask how they think would help with accommodation. I said in another post when I worked on the Middle East operating hours for those celebrating Ramadan were changed. In the Middle East work days are Sunday-Thursday. Maybe that isn’t feasible for LW but many of my team have moved hours because of the pandemic/ school/ kids etc.

        I also find the letter to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe your employee didn’t mention at the offer stage because so many people are Islamaphobic.

        Also to the responder who make a snark about the prayer lasting for more than 5 minutes. It’s about 5-10 minutes 5 times a day and the most important one “jumah” is on Friday. Please respect everyone’s religion equally even if you don’t understand it.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          Honestly, I drink a lot of water/tea/coffee and I definitely take more than 5 5-10 min breaks a day for both the before/after processes involved. This is not an unreasonable amount of break time for a human being to require.

          I suspect that this workplace has a pretty rigid schedule that is dependent on everyone having the same breaks (eg, if everyone takes lunch 12-1 then they are closed at that time). Without knowing the details, perhaps the answer for OP is finding ways to increase flexibility across the board – staggered lunches or scheduled breaks for everyone? Having a slightly more flexible system for everyone may in fact be easier to OP to manage than 1 employee who has a special schedule.

        2. JustaTech*

          If my friend’s day care (a place with legally-mandated coverage for safety reasons) can figure out how to work with several people’s prayer schedule without placing excess burden on other employees, then so can an office.

          What about other things where people need to take a time out of the work day, like nursing, or taking medication?
          You can do it, and after a while you probably won’t even notice it.

    6. OP1*

      Hoooookaaaayyy

      LW 1 here jumping in to clarify some things because clearly my question is being taken very much in an unintended way by some commenters!

      I didn’t have issues making the necessary accommodations and when my employee approached me I immediately went with them to HR so that everything could be done by the book and so that all accommodations were on the record and I could make sure we were accommodating them to the best of our ability. We made sure that they had a space to pray when they needed to, and that they knew to go to me or HR if there were issues. I had several employees ask me why this employee was allowed to use conference rooms during lunch, and what they were doing, and I told them that it was frankly none of their business and that everything was cleared with HR.

      The position was pretty regimented and the ask to change lunch hours (when the entire company takes lunch at the same designated time) was also accommodated, but did cause some issues around scheduling meetings for my team. We worked with it. Other accommodations also had to do with scheduling. This was a salaried position, but we don’t have a ton of flexibility in our hours, and we had some international calls that could not easily be rescheduled to accommodate this employee, which meant that I essentially had to have some meetings twice. Again I accommodated without further questions, just “ok if that’s what you need”.

      The employee literally fell asleep at their desk a couple of times, and said it was because of fasting. In any other situation that would be grounds for immediate termination, but I was understanding (I actually got in some mild trouble for this later), and the employee asked for additional accommodations during fasting time, some of which involved lower activity, which again was a pretty big part of their job. I did everything I could to make these accommodations.

      The bit about being asked to work additional hours was because the employee eventually needed to shift their schedule by an hour. I was told that I as a manager needed to be in the building whenever my team was scheduled to work. So my options were work an additional hour everyday so my team wouldn’t have to change, ask my entire team to change, or push back on that particular requirement. I pushed back and won, but I definitely burned some capital that I didn’t think I should have had to.

      I value diversity in the work place, and I always want to accommodate anyone in my team (I went through the same thing when a team member had a health issue, and I had to fight for them to get accommodation). I would however be lying if I said that offering accommodations didn’t cause some frustration for my team. I do think a lot of that frustration could have been avoided if the accommodations that were requested didn’t come in one at a time and with immediate requirements, which left me to scramble to figure out how to get things done. My question was more about at what point is it considered an “undue hardship” because that line has always seemed kind of blurry to me.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think you are unlikely to get many reasonable responses in the comments to your question. For whatever reason this topic seems to bring out the bitey and shouty in otherwise reasonable commentariat :)

        FWIW, with your additional details (which I did pick up on some in the original letter) seem more than reasonable and I don’t think you are just trying to find a way to run this person out with a pitchfork. I got what you were trying ask and assume you are otherwise good with this employee or you would have mentioned non-related performance issues.

      2. Littorally*

        Immediate termination for nodding off at their desk? Your workplace sounds bonkers. It would be a cause for concern at a normal workplace, but that concern would be phrased as “are you healthy? do you need to see a doctor?” not “pack up your desk.”

        1. Unfettered scientist*

          While I do agree that in my workplace, firing someone for falling asleep would be really harsh, I do think that on this website we often forget that there’s a pretty wide range of workplace norms, esp for workplaces that aren’t white collar offices. There really are environments where falling asleep is dangerous to the employee or others (hospitals, factories, and schools come to mind) and where stricter standards make a lot more sense.

          1. Clorinda*

            Yes, I’m imagining me as a teacher being seen sleeping at my desk with students in the room and … no. That would not end well.

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            Places where it’s dangerous are even more places where the company should respond by asking if there’s a medical concern. If there is and it can be dealt with, you’ve saved an otherwise good employee who will never be likely to have that happen again. If there’s no reason that can be addressed and prevented in future, maybe you do need to let them go, but an effective company would *first* suggest screening for medical problems.

            1. Lorine*

              I mean, unless you’re say, an anesthesiologist, or any other type of position where simple inattention, let alone falling asleep could cost someone their life. There really are jobs where a one-strike policy for falling asleep makes sense.

          3. MassMatt*

            This! There are tons of jobs where falling asleep would be a major problem. Even a call center.

        2. RussianInTexas*

          We have this in our employee handbook.
          The reason is, we have the same handbook for the office positions and for the warehouse staff, and as you can imaging, falling asleep on a forklift can cause significant issues.
          So it’s worded “falling asleep on the company premises is a reason for immediate termination”.

          1. Observer*

            The reason is, we have the same handbook for the office positions and for the warehouse staff, and as you can imaging, falling asleep on a forklift can cause significant issues.

            I hate to say this, but that’s a pretty ridiculous way to manage. Are you also requiring work boots in the office? Forbidding jewelry?

            1. Observer*

              Forget that I asked about jewelry, as that’s minor. But there are so many things that are inappropriate in an office or an imposition, but are necessary on a factory or warehouse floor that it just makes no sense to have a single undifferentiated policy.

        3. FrenchCusser*

          I was having some serious health problems last year, and I had to put my head down on the desk and rest a few times at work.

          I did not fall asleep, but I could well have.

          I wouldn’t want to work someplace where being tired and/or sick could get you fired. What a toxic culture that is.

          1. MassMatt*

            Well, it depends on the job. Would you want your air traffic controller falling asleep? What about the person you call for an ambulance? Requiring someone stay awake is pretty basic, at lots of jobs it’s a must.

            1. Jess*

              no, what it means is that in those jobs, the SYSTEM needs to have some backup. E.g. there should be 2 air traffic controllers on duty at all times, or the 911 response line automatically forwards to someone else if not answered within X number of seconds. Because yes, those are very serious safety issues, but the answer is to design in a safety factor, not to punish someone for an accident. Someone could have a heart attack on the job. The system needs to not allow planes to crash as a result.

          2. Self Employed*

            Many workplaces where I have done admin-type work have had these requirements. (And I have been terminated for falling asleep on my lunch hour from prescription antihistamines back in the dark ages before non-drowsy allergy meds.) I don’t know how many of them were because they also had a warehouse and they couldn’t have separate rules for forklift drivers than office staff, but they acted like they had caught me stealing the computer off my desk or selling blueprints to a competitor.

          3. Aggretsuko*

            Heck, in the beforetimes I got shamed just for looking tired at 8 a.m. meetings. Or for coming into work when I wasn’t feeling well. (I’ll note that I’m a night owl and just plain felt sick to my stomach some mornings, but it would wear off after a few hours.)

        4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          In most (not all) white collar workplaces, falling asleep may be not that a big deal. Iu others, it can be a huge safety – surgeons, pilots, etc. come to mind.
          I had a night job at a chemical factory as a student. My duties were taking readings,watching some dials, and should they ever go out of spec I was to hit the emergency shutdown, raise the alarm, and run like hell. Chlorine at 3000 psi is not your friend.
          Recording the readings was mostly make-work so I did not fall asleep. It helped, as did the dead man switch I had to push every so often or the fire team would come running to wake me up, rescue me, or collect my remains.

        5. Wintermute*

          I’ve worked a lot of places, everywhere I’ve ever worked that would be final written warning on the spot or immediate termination, the opinion being that it’s one thing to realize that you are having an issue and going to your boss and asking to go home, it’s another to just fall asleep– and a boss has to assume if they see it once, they DON’T see it a bunch more. I’ve never worked a place that it wouldn’t be either one step from termination or a summary termination– and this is not factory lines or forklift operators here, this is data centers, IT offices and call centers.

        6. Anonymous Flower*

          Ah yup, that happened to me. White-collar, office job, I was fine-tuning a simulation that required 2-3 minutes to run each time; and I’d been having trouble sleeping, so I was definitely doing that “alllmost asleep” thing in the downtime during runs.

          It was… not the most functional workplace. I was already on thin ice there, for a few wholly justified reasons and a lot that were totally bananacrackers.

      3. The Rural Juror*

        As someone who regularly has to wait on other people to be able to lock up the office, I completely understand the frustration with being expected to stay longer to accommodate someone else. Not quite the same scenario, but when I read that part of your letter I could feeeeeeel that frustration of my own.

        It sounds like you’ve been very considerate, even when it wasn’t necessarily easy to be.

      4. Aquawoman*

        Can I just point out something about the extra hour? I agree with you that that would not be reasonable. But the fact that you had to burn some capital on that is your company’s fault, not the fault of the employee for needing a schedule shift. If it was doable, it should have been done. I don’t know how much of this regimentation is driven by the actual needs of the job and how much is driven by management being kind of anal, but clearly some of it is your workplace being too rigid, since they did realize that you don’t really have to be there for the one extra hour. That just sounds like a culture of not trusting employees.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Eh… this one kind of depends on the work, the office/workplace, employees, and other factors. Personally I’m not keen on employees being left alone in an office. Mostly it’s from the ‘What if’ side of things and safety/security.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Maybe there shouldn’t be one employee left in the office, but that doesn’t mean the manager has to be there every second every employee is there! The manager can shift their schedule off by an hour, to make sure *someone* is there when the accommodated employee would otherwise be alone, and the other employees can all be there together at the other end of the day, not needing their manager to be there with them.

          2. FrenchCusser*

            I’m regularly left alone in the office. In fact, I am right now!

            There’s something wrong when the normal checks and controls are replaced with constant surveillance. It’s why WFH has been so fraught for a lot of people.

            (I’m on a break, for those who question why I’m commenting here while at work).

            1. Wintermute*

              You hit it on the head! If your process controls and procedural protections are so weak the only time you can trust people aren’t misbehaving then you have much more serious problems than the potential of employee misbehavior, because any system like that can be trivially circumvented.

              That said, there are reasons an office can’t have an employee alone without a supervisor. The work they do may need someone available for escalation, a manager might need to tally/zero cash balances after the last employee leaves, they might need someone with proper authorization to close out some process or lock up valuable/dangerous equipment or materials, or just to set the security system and lock the front door. There’s a lot of valid reasons, we should presume that this workplace has a good cause for that dicta.

      5. wittyrepartee*

        Can I suggest you mentally reframe this as “what if this worker had occasional low productivity due to a disease or having caretaking responsibilities?”. Like, we all have low productivity sometimes. Your work sounds rigid, and it sounds like it’s frustrating to have to go to bat for this employee. I’m grateful that you’re doing that. But in your own mind, it’s useful to think of these kinds of things as being a predictable time that they’re just going to be less present. The fasting isn’t an optional thing in your employee’s mind, it’s a necessary part of their life. Also, they probably pick up a lot of slack at other times of the year.

      6. A Poster Has No Name*

        Sounds like the problem isn’t your employee, but your inflexible workplace.

        I know there’s not much you can do about that, OP, but that seems to be the main issue here, IMO.

        1. meyer lemon*

          Yes, that’s what it sounds like to me as well. It seems like in this workplace, if managers want to be accommodating to their employees, the burden falls on them to absorb any inconvenience it might cause. If the company as a whole actually cared about their employees (and, you know, the law) they would offer managers a lot more support.

        2. Observer*

          Sounds like the problem isn’t your employee, but your inflexible workplace.

          That sounds like a pretty good summary.

          Not your fault, OP, but very much something to keep in mind.

          1. Self Employed*

            I don’t know what this company does, but having to have all employees clock in, eat lunch, and clock out simultaneously seems less likely to relate to actual business needs than lack of trust. I’ve had a LOT of temp jobs and that was the pattern I noticed, anyway.

            1. Wintermute*

              that isn’t my experience, to say the least. Most companies with that system have some kind of process flow, think of a classic factory assembly line. They need a person at every station and they need to start and stop the assembly line at a given time. They press the big red button at 10:30, 12:30 and 3, everyone goes and takes their break, at 11, 1 and 3:30 they press the big red button again and the parts start moving.

              Such a system typically does have “floaters” who can step onto the line, if someone needs to use the bathroom or, in this case, needs a moved lunch, but it does cause a rather serious imposition on the system.

              There are process-oriented jobs that aren’t necessarily assembly lines that have a similar system, the check processing room of a bank comes to mind, where they get, open and process paper checks mailed to the bank, but I’m sure there are others.

      7. Susana*

        Thanks for this, LW – this makes things more clear.

        I do wonder – why does everyone at the company have to take lunch at the same time? That actually seems like it would create a problem, leaving things uncovered…

        1. Anon Dot Com*

          It could be that the office is closed for that hour, and that’s built into the service schedule. (I lived in a non-U.S. country where the post office closed for lunch in the middle of the day.)

        2. OP1*

          It’s basically for availability/unavailability. If everyone takes lunch at the same time then everyone is unavailable at the same time.

          1. Anonymous Hippo*

            And that’s good why? I worked at a manufacturing plant that had regimented lunches (whistles and all) for the production floors, but that’s because they were literally running the machines and everything had to be shut down for people to take a lunch. It seems odd in any kind of salaried professional context.

            1. OP1*

              I’m not saying it’s the best, but it does make scheduling a lot easier and also ensure that everyone gets to have a lunch break (or at least the opportunity for one). I actually hated it when I started because I’d been used to more flexibility, but there’s something to be said for knowing that you can put those 5 people in a meeting at 1:30 and not worry that someone’s going to be on lunch. Similarly it’s nice to have a defined hour everyday where no one is going to schedule me or (for the most part) try to talk to me about work things. It means I actually get to take a lunch, and if I need it I can catch up on my own work without interruptions.

          2. Lauren*

            I don’t know why you’d want no one available at one time. He’s there when no one else is, so maybe he can take care of any issue that comes up.

            1. Nettie*

              Exactly. It makes no sense to me that this would be an issue. Most places, if almost everyone takes lunch 12-1, they’d want one person to take lunch at 1 so someone is there at 12.

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                IDK. Both my former primary care doctor’s office and my current psych office close for an hour at lunch. Phones go to the machine, etc. If it is an emergency there is a number to call which presumably goes to a cell or other available phone, but I could totally see if the nature of the work was such that there is NEVER going to be a good time for lunch, they could decide ‘well, we’re going to take this lunch time anyway’ and just mandate it.

      8. Working Hypothesis*

        Well, you’re not wrong that it can be a fairly gray line, but it’s normally a gray line that’s way, WAY up the scale from anything you had mentioned being requested in your letter. That’s why people have been skeptical that you are as comfortable making accommodations for non-majority religions as you say you are… because the question of “at what point does it become hardship?” came immediately on the heels of “these specific [really, really trivial] accommodations have been asked of me.” So naturally, we thought you were implying that the accommodations that were asked of you in this instance felt like too much to you.

        Frankly, it still looks like that’s how you’re feeling in the way you describe the situation, but I think maybe I understand a little better about why, now. Your office sounds, to be honest, INCREDIBLY rigid about some very normal parts of having human employees, and that kind of a place puts an awful lot of pressure on everybody. Immediate termination for nodding off once at the office; demands that you be on the premises every single second any of your team is there; a fixed lunch hour for everyone in the company that’s considered a big deal to change a little, and a lot of pushback from the higher-ups when you tried to get medical accommodations for a team member (which the company is legally required to give, at least if you’re in the US) are all signs of a company that sounds frankly dysfunctional to the point of being toxic.

        If that’s the kind of place you’re working — if every single utterly normal religious or medical need that you let one of your team meet comes out of *your* hide instead of it coming out of the company’s automatically budgeted time and money and general operating plans the way it would in a well run company — then of course it’s going to feel stressful whenever you’re asked for even very minor accommodations. Your company isn’t good at giving them, isn’t willing to give them, and hasn’t got a plan for how to give them other than “Dump it all on LW,” and of course that’s stressful. But the problem isn’t with the employee, who is being very reasonable; nor is it with the accommodations being asked, which are trivially minor. The problem is with the way your company treats employees who show any sign of not moving in lockstep with each other and with company policy every single minute of every single day. And that’s a big enough problem that I would seriously consider getting out of there, in your shoes. They are probably not treating you any better than they’re treating your employees, and they certainly won’t if you develop a medical problem or something. You say that you spent capital just to get basic medical accommodations for an employee who had a health issue come up… who will spend capital to get that for you, if it’s necessary someday? I wouldn’t wait to find out.

        1. Autistic AF*

          So much this. I’ve been in the position of needing accommodations and left a job I could really have excelled at because they were too rigid. I’m talking “you can’t wear headphones because we talk to each other”. I know my manager tried to help, and I trusted her early on, but that lack of flexibility made her impatient and exacerbated my health conditions.

          OP, consider your approach if you’re frustrated with the accommodation requests coming piecemeal – if you’re not receptive to the simplest of them, then why would you expect more vulnerability then you’re entitled to? You could also have been more proactive here: Ramadan comes every year, it doesn’t mean every Muslim person fasts but it would have been easy to Google the dates and casually mention it to your report earlier on. “I saw that Ramadan starts in April. I understand that people typically fast – can you book a meeting when you’re comfortable (by March 31) to help me understand what you’ll need on the job?”

          The culture of your workplace is not your fault, and I appreciate your acknowledgement that you burned capital to accommodate your report, but enabling or justifying rigidity that makes it harder for minorities is part of the problem.

        2. Glassheart*

          Also, if it’s this rigid, how say, is someone at this workplace who’s pumping at work accommodated? That’s a situation where there are daily scheduling needs – sometimes involving needing say, to sit in a conference room alone.

        3. Self Employed*

          +1000
          Sooner or later, a manager is going to deny someone’s accommodations just because they are sick of having HR/management tell them everything is their responsibility–and sooner or later, someone will file with the EEOC instead of looking for another job.

      9. Observer*

        To be honest, your workplace sounds really, really problematic.

        1. Immediate firing because someone fell asleep at their desk? Unless this is a high safety position, that’s pretty extreme.

        2. People questioning why someone is being allowed to use the conference room? That’s a culture issue that I think has, at best, potential for creating some significant problems (if they haven’t already.) Good for you for shutting it down.

        3. The whole lunch hour thing is something I’m still having a hard time getting my head around. The idea the one person blocking out a standing hour once a week is causing issueS (plural) with scheduling just speaks to a level of rigidity that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        4. The idea that you need to be in the building whenever any of your staff is scheduled to work. That makes absolutely no sense. Does that mean that you can never take a day off? Or that your department needs to shut down when you take a day?

        Beyond that, it makes me wonder about overall management. In order for people to be salaried / exempt, they either need to be highly compensated (eg having a high salary) or they need to be in a managerial type capacity / have a significant degree of independence in how they work. Requiring a supervisor to be present any time they are scheduled to be in the building is a glaring contradiction to that.

        Given how rigid your company is, I can see why this person hesitated to ask for what they need. Every sneeze seems to be a BIG DEAL. On the other hand, you (and your company) need to understand that there is not deadline for asking for accommodations. Sure, you can ask your staff person to please give you more notice if they realize they are going to need something because it’s not always practical to change things quickly. But “too late, you can only ask for accommodations when you are new” just doesn’t fly.

        I realize that you are trying to do the right thing. But I think you need to realize that the norms of your company are not all that reasonable.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah, so… at my workplace (government, btw), none of these accommodations would have had to be asked for. Go to lunch when you want! There’s a meditation room on the 3rd floor for anyone who wants to pray or lie down. We have a bunch of people who fast at various points in the year and we’re as accommodating as possible about it.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          I don’t think having to have a manager on site while people work is unreasonable. My office does that. During December break they have to ask if anyone wants to work (as opposed to being forced to burn their vacation time) and if someone does, then one manager is going to have to work, whether they want to or not.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            But it sounds like LW is a manager of a team, and there are other managers and teams. This would be like your company saying that if 1 person in each of the (say) 5 teams in the office wanted to work for the week, 5 managers would need to be present. Rather than the managers each taking one day apiece, so that there would always be a keyholder and somebody able to sign off on purchasing new teapot paintbrushes or llama shampoo or offer advice on whatever as needed, but with them then being able to take 4 days off each to do family holiday stuff…

      10. Genny*

        You don’t have to clarify here, but I think it would be useful to evaluate what “low activity” or “low productivity” really means in relation to the average work product that you can expect from your team. If everyone averages about 100 widgets a day and this employee only produces 90 when fasting but otherwise produces 100, that seems to me like it falls within the standard deviation of “humans doing work and occasionally not being at peak productivity for sundry reasons”. If instead the employee is only producing 10 widgets while fasting, that’s the kind of productivity dip you can bring up – not in an adversarial, “we can’t accommodate you” kind of way, but in a collaborative problem-solving kind of way. Though as you evaluate that, be mindful of the unconscious biases you may have developed while working for what sounds like a very rigid company.

      11. Harvey JobGetter*

        The issues you raise in this comment fall into two buckets:

        1.Problems with your employer (like requiring you to be onsite when any employee is and having no schedule flexibility when apparently they can actually accommodate schedule flexibility). Don’t blame the person needing an accommodation for this.

        2.Poor administration of the accommodation. It IS an undue hardship to have an employee who is sleeping when they are supposed to be working. It also sounds like they might not have been able to do core parts of their job if the physical activity was required and not easily transferred to somebody else without impacting their other work.

        This is good news. You have complete control over category (2), so you can fix that. You have no control over category (1), I suspect, but know that most employers are not totally unreasonable in the way yours is! You can get a better job and never have this problem again!

      12. Harvey JobGetter*

        Also, it’s not the employees fault you had to use capital to push back on your employer’s unreasonable “always must be in the office” policy. That’s your employer’s fault.

        To the extent you’re getting negative reactions, it’s because you’re blaming the employee for things your employer is doing.

        1. OP1*

          I am not blaming the employee! At no point did I say I was blaming the employee for anything other than failure to make me aware of the required accommodations that were predictable in a timely manner! People keep reading it that way but that was not what I meant by “shouldn’t have had to burn capital”

          I meant “why is this religious accommodation coming back in me personally and why are we even having this conversation” and “it is BS that pushing back on having to take personal responsibility for an accommodation is a thing that makes me come off as a problem”

          1. Autistic AF*

            They burn capital by asking for accommodations, though, and they’re in a much more vulnerable place than you are. Try reframing your thoughts as “what can I do to help them feel comfortable asking for accommodations in advance”. Maybe you can’t do that – one person would have a tough time changing corporate culture anywhere – but the root cause is your employer, not your employee.

            1. Amber*

              Sure, but the OP is entitled to her feelings. It’s true that she shouldn’t have had to burn capital, even if the employee had to burn more. The first does not negate the second.

              1. Autistic AF*

                OP is certainly entitled to her feelings… The issue is what she does with them, though. The letter and responses come off as defensive – Alison said in her response that what the employee did was fine and OP seems to be having trouble moving on from that.

          2. SchuylerSeestra*

            OP1, you are very much entitled to your frustration. You have done right by this employee, and that’s commendable. It’s ok to feel frustrated, it’s ok to ask where is the line. People are being really unfair to you in this forum. This is for sure an issue with management, rather than the employee, but still. I understand why you would feel drained.

            1. Ada*

              I think the reason people have their hackles up about this one is, the way the letter is worded, it implies they think the *employee* is the one causing the problems here by making these requests in the first place. But the employee’s requests are pretty minor and reasonable. It’s really the company that’s causing the issue here by being too rigid, but OP doesn’t seem to be directing their frustration at the correct party. Due to the subject matter, I think people are going to jump to “is this Islamophobia?” But giving OP the benefit of the doubt, this may be just another case of a toxic workplace warping an employee’s views on what’s reasonable versus not.

              1. Observer*

                this may be just another case of a toxic workplace warping an employee’s views on what’s reasonable versus not.

                It sounds to me that this is very much the case.

          3. Ari*

            OP 1, you need to check your attitude. You are blaming the employee for needing an accommodation on their own timeline, which they are entitled to do under the law. You didn’t need to explicitly say “I blame my employee” for all of us commenters to know that’s what’s happening.

            When you get a chance, reread your own question. It’s all about “my employee.”

            I really get why you’re frustrated. To be honest, it sounds like your company is super disrespectful and distrustful of employees and how they manage their time. You’re all adults who can reasonably be expected to manage your time as you f

            1. Ari*

              Sorry – i hit submit too soon!

              But you all should be able to manage your time as you see fit. Your company, for unknown reasons, doesn’t think that should be the case. It sucks and I get why you can’t spend all your capital on single handedly trying to reform your workplace.

              But, the question you should really be asking yourself is “do I want to continue to work for such a dysfunctional and rigid company,” not “where is the line on undue hardship before I start discriminating on my employee based on their religion.”

              Because, when you direct all your frustrations about this situation at the employee (ie – not asking you “soon enough” or making multiple requests), you are punching down. That’s not a good way to lead. You can be frustrated at the situation without demonizing one person.

              And I can guarantee that your employee will notice your frustrations with them, if they haven’t already. You don’t this frustration to snowball into a hostile work environment (the legal definition).

          4. Working Hypothesis*

            You’re absolutely right that you shouldn’t have had to burn capital to get your employee’s basic needs met!! Your company should have been willing to meet those needs immediately and according to its standing policy, not needing you to either accept being dumped on or push back against being dumped on. A good company shouldn’t have dumped the responsibility for handling your team’s accommodations all on you in the first place.

            None of this should be your employee’s concern, though. It’s between you and your company, and honestly it’s most likely necessary to resolve it by leaving the company. I’m deeply skeptical that your company is going to get any better.

          5. Aggretsuko*

            I get that. It sounds like several accommodations are having to be made in an environment which isn’t super friendly towards having to make them, and when you have to keep asking for more and more accommodations in an environment like that, it sounds like they’re kind of pushing back at you more and more, and then it’s getting you a bit in trouble for something that shouldn’t be trouble….which makes you feel kind of bothered and upset even though you shouldn’t be, and it’s also changing how your work is going…

            I get it. It’s a sucky situation for both you and the employee and you’re not even supposed to have feelings like that about it even though the office environment isn’t making it comfortable for anyone to ask.

          6. MBK*

            Was the employee aware up front that (e.g.) the lunch schedule was so rigid? It never would have occurred to me to ask for a lunch hour switch as an up-front accommodation, because it never would have occurred to me that my lunch hour was so specifically and rigidly prescribed by my employer.

            Sometimes requests for accommodations come up after the fact because the employee wasn’t aware of the specific need for an accommodation before the fact.

      13. Just Another Zebra*

        So, as others have said OP, I think its your workplace’s rigidity that’s making things overly complicated.

        At my office, everyone takes a 30 minute lunch between 12pm and 2pm. It still gives a window to schedule around, but isn’t super restrictive.

        Out of curiosity, though… all your employees are (presumably) human. People get sick, or have mid-day doctor appointments. If you have to be on-site at all times when your team is there, what happens if you, say, break a tooth and need emergency dental work? What happens if you have a family emergency and need to leave during normal business hours? What if you needed to be hospitalized, or out of work for a week? Someone would have to cover for you. So the idea that it must be you to supervise all your employees at all times seems very restrictive, in more ways than one.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, it’s not good management to have only one person who can do something for the reasons Zebra says. You need the flexibility to deal with life and they need someone who can cover for you while you do.
          And it should be this way for all employees.

      14. Dahlia*

        What would you do if this person had to pump? Are breastfeeding people an undue hardship?

        1. Observer*

          Probably. Note that OP mentioned similar issues with an employee who needed medical accommodations. In this workplace, I suspect that pumping would not be accommodated since people are supposedly exempt, even though they are being treated like children.

    7. RabbitRabbit*

      In my field of work (medical research at a hospital), we once had a sponsor try to schedule a large multi-institution conference call in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and the responses were anything from outright shock that anyone would even be working (more of the academic facilities, generally) to business as usual, no problem. Many people just kind of accept December/summer disruptions as “normal” and anything else as not normal and such a hassle.

      1. Self Employed*

        My last academic institution closed the campus and shut off the heating to save energy (and money) between Christmas and New Year’s. I went in anyhow because I liked having free access to the fluorescence microscope without having to negotiate time with other users.

    8. AnotherSarah*

      Yes–it’s worth thinking about all the holidays that are standard (at least in the US), in addition to the Christian sabbath, as “accomodation,” and then think about how little employees who aren’t Christian are asking for.

        1. Kotow*

          My first year at my old job, I had a boss who was Jewish and wasn’t even sold on having the office closed for December 25th, let alone January 7th! He was a really good guy, but could not grasp the concept of Orthodox Christmas and “but you just did this two weeks ago” isn’t the correct answer. Somehow despite it being on the calendar each year, I always ended up with meetings on that day. I’m now self-employed and when I say I’m unavailable on those days I still get questions of “but why?” Orthodox Easter is coming up this week and I’ve been fielding the “but you already did this earlier” issues for why I’m not going to be as productive.

    9. Harvey JobGetter*

      There was a study a few years ago that showed that the biggest drain on productivity in the U.S. from a single event was the NCAA basketball tournament. (I don’t know how scientific the study was, but surely the drain is huge even if this overstates it.) We hear almost nothing about this issue. The vast majority of people who complain about reductions in productivity due to religious holidays aren’t actually concerned about productivity.

      1. Quickbeam*

        OMG, March Madness cripples my office. Betting pools, massive tournament charts, dawn to dusk arguments, occasional fights.

  2. Free Meerkats*

    If I were #4, my concern would be the perceived low productivity would screw me when salary review time comes.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are things you can do to counter that, like prepare a bulleted list of accomplishments to give them just ahead of when they’re beginning that process. It’s not ideal but the OP can’t force the boss to use the task tracker, and so might need to use workarounds like that.

    2. BethDH*

      I wonder whether OP could recommend adding a status of “completed pending approval” or similar? If they are the only one whose assignments get this approval, it might not be worth it, but we added that status at a manager’s request in part because it made it easier to see expected workload. We just used a spreadsheet though so not sure how flexible these systems usually are.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Oh that’s a great idea. We have a job tracking system that breaks each step of the process into parts, with each part having a person assigned to it. If a job is still open but I’ve done my parts and we’re waiting on someone else, the job is shown to be with them. If this is an option it would be a great way of showing that OP has completed their work, it’s just waiting for the boss’s input.

      2. Anhaga*

        I was going to suggest something similar. Our project-tracking software/app makes it easy to add sub-tasks to any single task, so if LW4 could create 2 subtasks for their task, one that has their portion and one that has their boss’ task of “review and approve,” with due dates for each one, maybe that would help. Then your boss would get a reminder via the software that he has something to complete.

      3. Gan Ainm*

        This is what I was going to suggest as well. If it’s easily modifiable have one column that has a checkmark for “OP Completed Task” or “OP Submitted for Review” and another column for “Op’s Boss Completed Review” and then it’s obvious when you’ve done your piece and where the holdup is.

  3. Coder von Frankenstein*

    “Once, she even said she could see my ‘life force’ was being taken away.”

    File an expense report for garlic, silver, and holy water. Then explain you will no longer be able to work after sundown.

    1. Llama face!*

      But what if it’s an emotional vampire…and they’re already at your workplace? ;)

      “…my ‘life force’ was being taken away.”
      That kind of language would have me backing away slowly and feeling very uncomfortable with my manager. It’s such a bizarre thing to say in a professional context. (Okay it’s bizarre all the time but it’s extra weird when coming from your boss.)

      1. Ermintrude*

        I took the ‘life force’ comment as a weird dig. I would definitely keep an eye and ear on anyone who said something like that to me, especially in a work context.

      2. Forrest*

        I don’t think it’s *that* weird. It’s the kind of thing I would say jokingly to a friend to recognise that they were going through a tough time. It’s just weird coming from a manager who should a) stay well away from commenting on an employee’s appearance, and b) has the power to do something about “the tough time” and should at least be able to name it directly if that’s what they mean.

        1. Ermintrude*

          Agreed, it would depend on context. I interpreted the boss’s comment as a sort of faux-concern, but might be reading too much into it.

        2. Llama face!*

          Oh sure, I think it would be totally different if it were a silly hyperbolic or joking comment with a friend- but the OP’s description made it sound like the boss was saying it in a non-humourous way. And, to me, someone saying a ridiculous phrase like that seriously or with faux concern is bizarre no matter who says it!

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

      I’d be very tempted to claim a low count of midichlorians…

  4. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

    OP #3

    Those things don’t always correlate to actual work achievements, so ideally you’d want a way to build in an objective assessment of the results people have achieved in their work. (In fact, I’d argue that should carry the most weight of all, but then we’re potentially moving back into more subjective territory.)

    I would imagine it would go beyond “potentially” to “definitely.” People can and do exaggerate achievements on their resumes all the time, and I’m not sure most hiring managers would take the time to do the kind of thorough background check with a current or past employer required to figure this out. (My current employer didn’t bother doing a reference or background check on me – I could have made everything up out of whole cloth, and they hired me anyway.) It would be easier to use achievements as a baseline for internal hires – you could easily speak to the candidate’s current manager to verify what was claimed without torpedoing the candidate’s current work situation (assuming the company requires all internal candidates get management approval before posting for a new position).

    Anyway, OP, I like the way this company handles their compensation/salary planning. It’s transparent and it’ll give you a realistic idea of what your pay increases will look like the longer you stay and perform well.

    1. TechWorker*

      I think there’s ways other than background checks to figure out if someone’s achievement on their resume is as ‘good’ as it sounds, which is to ask about it in more detail in the interview! Yes there may be people who blatantly lie and can ‘talk the talk’ to make it sound like their achievement is better than it was but I don’t think they’re in the majority, most people reveal more when you start digging :p

    2. Penelope Toodlesworth*

      I have accomplishments on my resume that my boss knows absolutely nothing about. Increased newsletter open rates by X percent, improved social media engagement by X likes … they’re operating at a higher level and just don’t care about that stuff / don’t understand about that stuff. There’s no system in place except for annual reviews where I could put them in front of her. And I’m the only person who has the knowledge to dig into the behind-the-scenes numbers to get those data points – one other person on staff could theoretically do it, but it would take them weeks. If someone actually tried to verify those resume items, I’d be screwed.

    3. Julia*

      I’m not sure pay at new employer X would be based on achievements at old employer Y though? Just on achievements you’ve made after joining the new company.

      I see Alison’s point – I worked in a country where seniority and your college name are everything, so you can run circles around some older person who sleeps at their desk and still not be paid according to your achievements. The reason given is often “fairness” or “the system” or “tradition”, and it can be really demoralizing.

      1. Save the Hellbender*

        Yes, I think by achievements Alison means work achievements at the company that’s paying you

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I work in and industry that is obsessed with “elite” educational credentials, and “elite” schools tend to be best attended by the upper-middle class and wealthy (because the tuition is quite expensive, they are extremely hard to get into without costly extra curriculars and prep work, and legacy – if your family members attended – is also considered). I grew up where going to a public university was considered a good choice, and I was quite surprised to learn that my education is considered inferior in my industry. It doesn’t matter now that I have decades of work experience, but, when I started out, I was demoralized to find that people who could afford fancier schools were considered more qualified than me (particularly after working circles around some of them). I would be quite upset to have that continue for my full career.

        1. Self Employed*

          I couldn’t compete in the workforce with graduates from the local elite school and local flagship campus of the “Research 1” level state universities because I went to the “4-year college” tier state university for my master’s degree. Never mind that I had supported my research by my own grantwriting, on a project I designed myself, using techniques I adapted that were unlike anything my lab had done before–instead of just being a lab grunt cranking out work for my advisor’s publications. I guess it was better preparation for running a business than for working for someone else.

    4. Khatul Madame*

      It is not just the achievements.
      In IT hiring I see a fair number of candidates that collect certifications. Unfortunately, experience shows that having a cert does not translate to mastery of a skill or a technology, so hopefully there are controls built into the hiring process to identify experienced candidates vs. just well-papered ones.
      I support a documented process for determining salary and raises… but be prepared that a candidate/worker with a degree from a diploma mill will demand the same points as the one who earned their degree in a rigorous college program.

    5. TheFrenchImpaler*

      This one is definitely tricky. On one hand, having more objective measures goes a long way when it comes to fairness and equity, but on the other, it seems to echo the sort of credential creep that seems to plague the job market nowadays, and you lose the ability to compensate for anything that isn’t accounted for in the pay scale matrix.

    6. Double A*

      In many government jobs they use a matrix like this. For teaching it’s almost universal in some states. I’ve never negotiated a salary because I’ve always had jobs that use matrices like this.

    7. consultinerd*

      I applaud the attempt to have a structured and transparent system for compensation, but contra Allison I do think this is a bit of a red flag, at least for any kind of complex or more responsible role. From the examples given, this company is likely focusing on the wrong things in their matrix. Years of experience and certs are easy to measure but don’t necessarily correlate much at all with actual skills or productivity. If a company is going to take this approach, they really need to do some careful thinking about what matters for success in a role and how to measure it, or they’ll end up rewarding people who check boxes rather than people who actually help the organization achieve it’s goals.

    8. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Who was this directed to? It’s posted it in a thread of reples to Richard, but it doesn’t jive with the accepting attitude toward his fasting students that he posted about.

      I’m thinking it may have been directed to o.p. #1, but if so, it would have been better as a separate post. Then again, we’ve had weird nesting fails here lots of times, where people’s posts have shown up in the wrong places. I’m going to assume that’s what this was. :-D

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Eeeek, this was not supposed to be posted here! Sorry.

        I actually posted that comment in another thread earlier. Just now, I accidentally hit “reply,” and the reply box popped up with my last comment already in it. I tried to hit “cancel” and hit “submit” instead. (Yeah, I have no bloody idea how I did that. Sometimes this tablet seems to have a mind of its own.)

  5. goducks*

    #3. My state (Oregon) has a strict pay equity law that went into effect a couple of years ago that requires salaries be set this way. Two people doing similar work must be paid identically (to the penny) except for differences due to certain bona fide criteria (and these are defined by law), and employers can’t back into the justification for pay differences, they must be intentional. It is resulting in companies that pay attention to labor law (unfortunately far too few!) to begin to use this sort of matrix. It’s transparent and fair and I love it.

    1. NYWeasel*

      Is it though? I feel this nagging sense that the shift continues to reward the same group of people, but this time for defineable metrics.

      More experience: If companies don’t change their entry-level hiring biases, the odds are high that initial hires will continue to reflect a narrow view of what candidates should look like. This plays out years later when looking at job histories.

      More education: The ability to take classes, gain certifications etc is often directly died to financial stability. I was unable to pursue an internship in college bc they were unpaid at the time, so I started my career at a disadvantage to my friends who were able to take unpaid time to work at major companies.

      More skills: How are these opportunities being awarded? I’ve gotten development opportunities at my current job that would provide me with very specific skills to lean on, but if I’m given a chance, it meant my 10 colleagues can’t even if they are equally qualified to handle it. Again, able to easily be affected by biases.

      I make all these observations without any good solutions to the issue. Obviously the key is that there has to be a more fair pipeline in to career paths, but when a not insignificant portion of the world refuses to even acknowledge their biases/privileges, it feels like we’re just continuing to enforce the status quo but couching it in more acceptable terms, sigh.

      1. VI Guy*

        I am in a field where this type of pay system is often used. While I think it can be improved, I also feel that I am better paid than I would be if I had to advocate for myself in a less transparent system.

      2. Natalie*

        It doesn’t have to be perfect to be *more* equitable, and I think that could be pretty definitively determined in research. I hope someone’s doing that, I would be really interested to see the results.

      3. EPLawyer*

        No system is perfect but this beats the “well HE negotiated better at hiring” pay disparities. As we have seen time and time again here, some people don’t even KNOW you can negotiate your salary. They think you have to take what is offered. Or people who have attempted to negotiate have had offers pulled for the audacity. Then of course, pay raises are based on percentage of current salary, so you are always behind.

        Then of course, there is the whole asking for salary history which is still legal in most states. So your new salary is always pegged to your last one.

        This avoids both traps. Could it be improved? Sure. But even at the current stage, it beats the “guess what number I am thinking of for your salary?” style.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh yeah, thought of another one — The APPLICANT can figure out the salary range for the job pretty easily and can decide if it works for them or not (plus any benefits of course). So everyone has more information and can make better choices.

        2. Allonge*

          Exactly. It does not solve all societal issues, sure.

          But companies are and should be allowed to take experience and training into consideration when hiring – even if those were gained with luck. And unless we pay everybody the same salary, these factors will be considered when determining what people get paid.

          And in such a matrix at least you don’t have to know all the things you cannot learn in a non-white-collar, non-middle-class family to get the salary you deserve. Nor do you have to be a good negotiator, or have the ‘right look’ or whatever.

          I also think that having a transparent and non-negotiable pay scale/matrix does not prevent companies from hiring equitably, from giving chances to those coming from less advantage and so on.

        3. Brett*

          While you cannot negotiate salary, you _can_ negotiate pay components and I think that introduces even further bias. Examples of components are whether or not a certificate or certification is job relevant. If a degree is job relevant. At last job, I saw a guy negotiate to count his uncompleted bachelors degree as completed (because he dropped out for financial reasons). And the biggest one of all, negotiating which work experience counts as relevant work experience.

      4. bias in the machine*

        Exactly this! Calling it unbiased ignores the fact that the employees most likely to get the opportunity to take specific certificate or creditations, or have specific kinds of previous work experience are more likely to be white cishet men.

    2. DireRaven*

      With these matrixes, if, say, someone with optional X qualification can earn $Y over base salary, and the hired employee does not have X qualification at the time of hire, but obtains it while working there, can the employee request a salary increase to reflect that they now have the qualification? Even if normal raises and increases have, since the date of hire, brought the salary above what it would have been if initially hired with the qualification?

      1. goducks*

        Yes, if the thing equals pay in the matrix, the employee would need to get a raise. Under the state’s law you cannot have two equivalent employees (and this is not determined solely by job title but by duties, level of responsibility, and work conditions) with different pay. Which means that by gaining whatever thing they now likely are equivalent to different other employees and need immediate pay adjustment.

        1. Cj*

          If the employee takes the certification on their own, not at the request of the company, and the job they are doing doesn’t require the certification, then the company is stuck giving the employee a raise?

          Just reread your comment, and I don’t think that is actually the case if the company doesn’t put the certificate to use by a change in job duties, etc. But I am curious what the actual answer would be to this.

      2. LW 3*

        This is a good question. I don’t know what the system is for ongoing raises at this organization, my instinct is that it is not the same as the starting pay matrix. I plan to ask more about that during the interview process.

    3. OneTwoThree*

      During a recent job search for very similar jobs.
      Potential Employer One: “You have worked as a nurse (LPN/RN) for 20 years, we would start you at the top of our pay scale.”
      Potential Employer Two: “You have had your RN license for 9 years, you fit right here in the middle of our pay scale.”
      Potential Employer Three: “You have worked as an RN for almost three years. We’ll bend a little bit to count it as three so you don’t start at the bottom of our pay scale.”

      1. twocents*

        The matrix just means you’ll be paid consistently within the company; it’s not wage setting across the industry.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        just wondering what LPN can be, and all that comes to mind is low-paid nurse…

        1. peasblossom*

          Licensed practical nurse. RNs and LPNs have different certifications, pay, and job expectations so they’re different jobs.

          1. OneTwoThree*

            My point is that with the same experience, and same credentials, applying to three very similar jobs, in the same area, at the same time, the “objective” measure of how much I should be paid was: at the top, or in the middle, or close to the bottom.

            1. OneTwoThree*

              Or rather: at the top, or in the middle, or ‘we’re doing you a big favor by not putting you on the very bottom where you deserve to be’

            2. goducks*

              That’s true whether there’s mandated pay matrixing or not. In places where pay is a free-for-all of who can negotiate what, there’s still market forces that mean that an employer who doesn’t pay as well as their competitor won’t attract or retain employees. If you don’t like an employer’s pay banding schema, don’t work for them.

            3. peasblossom*

              oh, sorry, I was actually just trying to answer rebelwithmouseyhair’s question, not trying to offer a corrective to your statement! I think you were clear.

  6. Not playing your game anymore*

    5. It matters. Some of our jobs are primarily afternoon and evenings. All of our jobs can include occasional (rare) evening and regular weekend shifts (once monthly). If you say no, even if you’re applying for primarily days, we don’t even see your application.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      This is why I don’t like having things just be yes/no. In my last job, I was occasionally needed during the evening or a Sunday. Occasionally meaning maybe 6 times a year. For other jobs “occasionally” might be more or less often. If I saw a job posting asking for nights and weekends, I would assume that was part of my normal working hours and wouldn’t apply because I can’t do that on a regular basis.

    2. Clisby*

      Right. If the applicant really means that under no circumstances will they work nights and/or weekends, they should put no. If the applicant really means they’re fine with occasionally having to work a night or weekend shift, maybe to fill in for someone, I’d say put ‘yes’ and then elaborate in the initial interview. To me, answering “yes” doesn’t mean “Sure, I’ll take whatever schedule you want to throw at me” or “Sure, swing shifts are fine”. It might mean “I’m open to sometimes working outside of an 8-hour day”; or “I’m happy to work every Saturday if you give me every Monday off in exchange” – or whatever. One of my favorite schedules when I worked for a morning newspaper – that meant I had to work in the evenings – was to work Sat. – Wed. and have every Thurs. and Fri. off. I had gone back to school to get a degree in computer science and having two full weekdays off from work was golden.

  7. Courtney*

    LW4 totally poked my button. I am a direct report to a very senior manager and he appears to have an aversion to dealing with any “routine” tasks. He’s 100% engaged on any issues that deal with conflict or potential litigation (I’m an in-house counsel) but he won’t sign and return routine documents. He doesn’t delegate anything and is one of those managers where he says if you don’t here from him, you are doing fine. But at the same time, I am getting hounded for his pending actions. I’m trying to take the AskAManager approach to not stress and send regular reminders, but it does really suck to have a boss who won’t (1) delegate or (2) take responsibility.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had one for a while after a reorg, and I hadn’t found a solution before he gave himself a promotion to another company.
      Several of us lost access to our primary software because he did not respond to dozen of emails and phone calls about approving the renewal. A really nice guy, but clueless on administrative reality.

    2. Julia*

      I think the trademark AAM approach would be something like “Is there a better way for me to get these forms signed? I’m finding that they don’t get signed when I send them to you by email, which is causing problems like X and Y.”

      1. Elizabeth I*

        Yes, exactly – and one possible solution might be to schedule a standing meeting where you get him to sign all the forms during that time.

    3. Dwight Schrute*

      Ahh yes I had a boss like this. It was someone’s job each day of the week to stay late with her to make sure she signed off on stuff. We each had a day that was our “late” day and it wasn’t uncommon to be there until 10 pm with her trying to get her to sign off on things. She literally referred to us as her babysitter

      1. WFH with Cat*

        *facepalm*

        I’ve had some managers that had to be managed … but that is over-the-top.

    4. Ginger Baker*

      Does he have an admin? Because a good admin can be KEY to getting this type of stuff done (Source: That Admin for my boss – everyone who knows him knows that if you want to make sure the administrative task gets done, you cc me on it…and BossMan is the first person to tell people that! He absolutely relies on me to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks.)

      1. Eether, Either*

        Yup, go to his admin. That’s my job–I am the “serial reminder.” Make sure you cc his admin on everything you need him to follow up on.

    5. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I had one of those bosses. Found out one morning that the boss had forgotten (despite the system issuing more than one email) to certify my building access. And it took me a week and several calls to sort out.

  8. Gertie*

    #4 Do other people actually pay attention to it? We have a task management software, but it doesn’t really help organize anything in our department- just not the type of work we do. Someone high up decided everyone should use it, but it’s more work than it’s worth and people tend to put the very minimum in and don’t bother to keep it current.

      1. Hekko*

        Are you able to add notes to the tasks? So even if the task isn’t mark as completed, the last note on it could read ‘all done – task may be marked complete’ or something similar?

        1. OP4*

          Sure. But that isn’t immediately visible so people won’t see it unless they are looking in tasks assigned to my boss

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Is there a way to set a backup for your boss in the system? So that someone else could do this piece of it?

            I feel for you, because I have to get approvals from management through similar software. I issue a lot of reminders & have built relationships with EAs to make this happen. But it can be a painful process.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        We use a software like this and most things have at least 2 tasks–one for the preperation and one to say it has been reviewed. And then I as the preparer would mark it off myself when I have completed something and sent it to my boss for review, and then it’s on them to mark it off when they have reviewed it. Is there any chance of a setup like that working in your office?

  9. Rez123*

    #3 in not in the states but all private sector employees I’ve worked for has had something similar. You look at a table that tells your a range and suggested guideline based on experience and education. There is some leeway and some room for negotiation within the range. Like employee has on their freetime learned x or they believe something else they have is an asset etc.

    I’m now in the public sector so it is a specific number with few increases based on number of experience years.

  10. Sal*

    Ugh, I am also in LW2’s shoes. My dad died (not of covid) last May during early lockdown and I’ve been trying to WFH with two little kids and a constantly shifting and really draining rotation of stressful childcare arrangements (my husband is back in person). I’m not a manager, so I can’t say that I’ve stepped up, but I think I’ve done a good job of balancing my priorities and handling the ones that are the most pressing without weighing too heavily on my boss’s time (she is constantly, constantly swamped). I don’t want to ask for more money (and I don’t think I’d get it—I haven’t been killing it so much as keeping my head above water); but I do want to ask not to have my workload increased (and/or for continued pandemic-level of grace) until things go slightly more back to normal than they are now—and honestly, I think I need the grace for a, well, grace period after things do get a little better, to actually recover my equilibrium a bit. Trying to dive back in from full Covid momming-working to full Capitalist USA FT-working-mom feels like a recipe for burnout in short order. And if she stopped telling me I looked like crap (in so many words—“drained,” “tired,” “like you’re struggling”), maybe I would feel on less shaky ground about broaching that conversation…? SIGH.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Can you try to use her telling you that as an opening to talk about what you need? For example, if she tells you that you look “like you’re struggling,” can you answer, “Thanks for the understanding. It’s true that this year has been kind of a lot, and I appreciate your offering to help.” You know she didn’t actually quite make this offer, but very few people will admit that when they’re being misinterpreted as intending it. Then explain what you’d like from her, whether that’s a longer period of transition or a delay on increasing your workload for a while after you get back to the office or whatever.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Good luck! At worst, it’ll hopefully make her think about whether she really wants to walk into that trap again by commenting on how you look. At best, it might even get you some help. :)

  11. Jessica Fletcher*

    #3 – The matrix would improve pay equity if this company existed in a vacuum. It seems to rely on equity in prior employment, educational opportunities, etc.

    Sure, upon entering this company, everyone gets the same payout per year of management experience. But in the rest of the world before applying here, the opportunity for management experience wasn’t doled out equally to everyone. White men who got more leadership opportunities at other, less conscientious companies, will still get paid more.

    But it does allow the employer to think it had nothing to do with the resulting salary inequities. I bet if they examined the demographics of their higher paid employees, they’d see a pattern. It sounds like they’re trying to move in the right direction, so hopefully they’ll do some additional work on this structure.

    1. Allonge*

      No salary system can right all the wrongs in the world, no. What is the alternative though? Negotiations result in much larger inequalities and at least in this system, the company has a way to make sure they know what is being rewarded at starting salary. And taking experience into account is sometihng that everyone does.

      If their promotion system is fit for purpose, that might be all that any one company can do, realistically.

      Mind you, I have a lot more years in similar systems (public and private) than not, and I always find it strange that a lot of people from the US don’t trust anything that is not a personally negotiated salary, so there is that.

    2. MK*

      It allows the employer to think it had nothing to do with the resulting salary inequities? That’s…a really weird and adversarial way of putting it. This is not an empty gesture of wokeness, this is a practical way to reduce bias in salary setting.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I posted a more lengthy explanation above with exactly why I agree with Jessica, but my quick summary is that this practice needs to be paired with other actions geared at reducing biases at the outset of people entering the working world, or else it can be used as a way to allow biased practices to continue behind a veneer of equity.

        1. Allonge*

          I agree that it ‘needs to be paired with other actions geared at reducing biases at the outset of people entering the working world’, I guess my thing is: so does every other hiring / salary-determining practice.

          1. NYWeasel*

            Yes, but the thing is that this is being touted as “it makes things equal!” when it has a very real potential to allow inequities to continue because the inequities happen upstream of when the matrix is applied. So of course any practice has the potential to be warped by biases, but not every practice claims to remove them.

            1. Sam*

              This is an argument against anything that claims to have a positive impact but doesn’t solve an entire problem.

              I’ve worked in salary-grid based organizations for years, and guess what – it’s a proven way to increase equity!

            2. Allonge*

              Well, in this particular case LW was told that ‘this is part of their diversity and inclusion efforts to promote equity in starting salaries, since it is no longer dependent on the candidate’s ability to negotiate or the manager’s discretion, which can introduce bias’. So it looks like they are well aware of that.

              Again, I agree that it cannot solve all the issues, and it needs follow-up in the career management / promotions system, and even then there are many things it cannot do.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes exactly. Nobody is saying that it’ll eliminate bias in salary setting, just that this is a step in the right direction.

    3. Consultant Catie*

      I wanted to jump in and add on to this – I would advocate for being a bit skeptical of matrices like this. I’m in a field/company where they constantly point to “the algorithm” that supposedly determines your pay, which sounds like a version of your matrix. When I started I was so excited that the burden of performatively asking for a raise, having to prove that I’m worth $X, etc. would be removed. Supposedly/ideally the algorithm takes your performance ratings from throughout the year, years of experience in the field, and education and then spits out an equitable number without considering gender, race, etc.

      HOWEVER: In practice, there are a number of downsides to keep an eye out for.

      Make sure to monitor whether your company’s leadership uses the algorithm/matrix as a crutch or scapegoat, and therefore as a reason to avoid discussing or re-evaluating salary. In my case, at year-end when you find out your raise/bonus/etc., there is no way to advocate for yourself if you think you deserve more. Leadership will at most set up a quick call at your request to explain why you’re making what you’re making, but these calls usually are about 5mins long and end up being “well that’s what the algorithm said.” This also allows them to escape blame, responsibility, or authority to change things if/when people aren’t happy with their pay, allowing “the algorithm/the company” to take the fall for bad news.

      Also, it’s important to double check whether they actually do strictly rely on the matrix. For us, they put a HUGE emphasis at the outset on the algorithm when you join the company and are learning how everything works. However, in practice, you still have to negotiate hard for your starting salary in the interview stage (despite them telling you that’s not necessary), and many people have to go get counteroffers in order to get any kind of outside-the-algorithm raise.

      All in all, I think a matrix is a good step toward pay equity! But I’ve had enough iffy experiences that I wanted to add a cautionary note.

      1. Qwerty*

        I’d also wonder what they do with skills outside of the matrix. Part of the reason I’m at the higher end of the pay band for my role is because I do a lot of stuff for the organization that is outside my job description. When I’m not in an actual management job, I often take on a significant amount of my manager’s responsibilities whenever their workload gets heavy so they can focus on the people side of things. Having a Misc category would send the matrix back to being purely subjective again, but not having space for extra stuff would cause some people to be really underpaid.

        1. Consultant Catie*

          That’s definitely at issue that happens with us. I should note, they do quantify technical skills and certifications, like a PMP, development/coding skills, security clearances, etc. in the algorithm. Less-quantifiable stuff like covering for your manager while they’re out for 4 months on parental leave or like you said, taking over a significant amount of your manager’s workload for another reason, gets left out.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’m in a similar boat, and it makes my salary calculation interesting because my role generally does not exist exactly as mine does in other comparable organizations. I have peers on the organizational chart, but I have a much broader skillset and manage three distinct functions (it’s technically four, but two are closely correlated).

          My organization uses a matrix to a degree – entry-level salaries are all the same with adjustments for relevant education or employment/internships and there are salary bands for positions. I also have a number of unique positions that require specialized expertise, and the pay scale on those can vary depending on the availability of those skills in the marketplace as a whole. We do annual discrimination testing and aggressive market adjustments. That said, some people are just better workers than others, and I never want to be in a system where the outstanding performers are not rewarded and paid more than their lesser performing peers. These are easy difference to explain – higher productivity/profitability rates, better client/project lead satisfaction, more business earned, etc. I would chafe at having to pay a high performer the exact same thing as someone who was just doing enough not to get fired.

          1. Consultant Catie*

            Oh I completely agree! And taking performance ratings into account in the matrix should (hopefully) help to reward those high performers.

            I think I’ve just been stonewalled by “the algorithm” (this sounds more and more like a sci-fi movie lol) enough that my opinions have shifted a bit back into the “let me make a case for myself, personally, as an individual, to another individual with authority” camp.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I can totally understand that! Being assessed entirely by algorithm has got to feel a little dehumanizing. At least when one of my folks comes to me and asks for an explanation of their salary, I can say what it’s based on and that the way to move up the scale are to do X, Y, or Z not just shrug and say, “that’s what the computer says and we don’t question our digital overlords”.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Also algorithms are not inherently free of bias, they are at the mercy of the person/people who programmed them, they can be programed with biases built in, even if the coders do not realize it.

        As others have said a pay matrix is a step in the right direction, even if it can’t fix all the inequities built into the system of who has access to educational opportunities.

        1. Consultant Catie*

          I completely agree — it’s important to note the system biases, and make sure to keep your eyes open about how people use (or don’t use) that system. But you’re right, I think a matrix is probably one of the best flawed options out of all the even-more-flawed options.

      3. TheFrenchImpaler*

        I’m assuming in this case the algorithm used isn’t transparent to employees, right? That seems like it would mitigate a of the benefit of having a matrix-style system in the first place.

        And the rest of the benefit is gone if they can bypass the algorithm to adjust pay in response to counteroffers.

        The algorithm does nothing but act as a scapegoat!

      4. LW 3*

        This is really helpful experience to share. I don’t know what the ongoing structure is for raises – I don’t think it is this same matrix, which seems to be specifically for a starting salary. But I am definitely going to ask during the interview process. This is an organization that does seem to be doing a lot related to DEI in general, so I am also going to be looking for all of the different ways that they are championing equity within the org, because it certainly isn’t solved by this one thing.

    4. Jessica Fletcher*

      What’s interesting to me on this thread is that people argue with me, then someone else says exactly what I said, in a slightly different way, and people agree with them. I don’t understand why people can’t ruminate for five minutes before posting that I’m killing progress by pointing out that this method isn’t the holy grail. I clearly said it was a step in the right direction and I hope the company examines the effects of this plan, so it can make adjustments. I put spaces between paragraphs so you could easily see that, because I know people don’t read. And yet so many people still didn’t read.

  12. TransmascJourno*

    Something about LW1 really got to me. While The have a good guess as to what religion the OP’s employee is (and that OP’s framework is probably that of mainstream cultural Christianity, even if she herself isn’t religious), the idea that religious practice outside that framework is a point to only be tolerated reminds me of how frustrating it is to be in the shoes of the employee. For instance, I’m a practicing Jew—and having to take (unpaid) time off work for the high holidays, being quiet about the dietary restrictions of kashrut when it comes to anything food-related in an office setting so an employer can’t somehow weaponize it against me (i.e., claiming I’m just being “difficult” and “complicating things for everyone else” — which results in me going hungry to avoid it), and more is exhausting and can be so unfairly disadvantageous. It’s also frankly exasperating when people like me (and the OP’s employee) are taught from a very young age to adapt our lives to a culturally Christian timetable—for example, knowing things might be slow at the end of the year around Xmas, which means to expect less productivity from others—when we don’t get the same consideration from those selfsame people for ours. I hope it’s something the OP might keep in mind going forward.

    1. Liz T*

      I completely agree. I have to say I’m a bit prickly that OP#1 is acting like they’ve somehow been duped, and is clearly wishing they could fire their employee for fasting.

      Really, taking lunch at a different time than everyone else is annoying you? I’m having trouble believing that this person’s Ramadan productivity puts them measurably behind your other employees overall–I think it’s more likely that you accept the various reasons your Christian employees might lag due to standard life events, but this employee’s are foreign to you so they’re driving you nuts. Please get over it.

      1. Klio*

        My company dreads Ramadan since they have the emergency services on site so often during it. The work is somewhat strenuous and people collapse due not keeping fueled properly.

        1. allathian*

          Or hydrated. A healthy person can go without food for a day with no ill effects, and fasting Muslims do eat after sundown, but if the job is strenuous, not being allowed to drink can result in collapses where emergency services have to be called and the patient is given intravenous fluid.

          1. CatMintCat*

            When Ramadan happens in the brutal outback Australian summer, our Muslim students who fast (not all, we are a K-6 school and not all children fast) really suffer. When it’s 45 Celsius, it is actively dangerous to go without water.

            1. Ariaflame*

              There are meant to be allowances for local conditions. At least it’s not mid-summer this year down here.

            2. Sana*

              There are allowances for these cases such as the option to follow Saudi Arabia sunset to break fast which is around 5-6pm rather than 9-10pm in places where the sun is unusually higher than normal. Also the parents are at fault I would not expect my primary school children to fast or any children to fast in extreme weather conditions.

              1. OhNo*

                The parents, and their children, are following what they see as a spiritual obligation. Framing it as “at fault”, as if it is something the parents are doing wrong or something they are doing to actively harm their child, can be harmful to Muslim communities. It’s a framing that is, sadly, often used to justify Islamophobia.

                Please reconsider the language you’re using when talking about this issue.

                1. I'm A Little Teapot*

                  Whatever the reason or the cause, if a child is passing out due to dehydration then I’m giving shade to the parents. I am not Muslim, but I simply can not believe that an entire religion has such little care for the wellbeing of its children that this is acceptable.

                2. Observer*

                  On the other hand, the school SHOULD be talking to the parents about this!

                  I do know that in most interpretations of Islam, this should not be happening. Eid is not meant to literally endanger the lives of the faithful, and CERTAINLY not children. Which means that the school has standing to ask the parents to either talk to their spiritual adviser to figure out what can be done or keep the kid(s) home – without penalizing the kids! – because the school simply cannot keep them safe.

              2. ThatGirl*

                Pre-pubescent children are not required to fast, though I cannot speak to individual families or local traditions.

                1. Sunglass*

                  Nor, in my experience, are people who are ill, pregnant, or menstruating. It’s not a blanket rule.

                2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  On top of the exceptions cited by Sunglass, travellers and breastfeeding parents are also exempt from fasting.
                  However, you’re only exempt for the time the reason lasts, normally once you’ve finished menstruating, travelling, recovered from your illness, given birth and weaned your baby you have to fast for a month. This is much harder because you won’t be doing it with all your Muslim friends.
                  A Muslim friend told me that anyone can “buy” exemption by giving food to the poor. IIRC, you buy double the quantity of food and give the half you don’t eat to the poor. This is great, because poor people get something to eat, and you don’t have to fast later on. Since the Quran recommends two years breastfeeding, that could easily mean you’d have to fast for three months once you wean the baby!

                3. CatMintCat*

                  Some families expect their children, even in kindergarten, to fast. Others start at puberty (which to my non-religious eyes seems more reasonable).

                  With families that do expect children to fast, they also expect their children to be at school, and speaking to the families about allowances or exceptions changes nothing. The children become distressed if we suggest a drink, after they have passed out and before the ambulance arrives. All we can seem to do is keep them indoors as much as humanly possible and wait for it to be over.

                4. Observer*

                  @CatMintCat, they also expect their children to be at school, and speaking to the families about allowances or exceptions changes nothing.

                  I actually am surprised that you say that. You can’t force the parents to allow the children to drink. But you CAN insist that the child not come to school as you cannot keep them safe. Don’t penalize the child (and if the kid is old enough to be doing school work, send the materials home). But you really cannot keep the kid home.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The manufacturing plant at my location runs 3 shifts. Manufacturing staff and managers can exchange their shifts. Office side staff can also arrange to “work third shift”. The flexibility is treated as a basic safety precaution. It works for many reasons other than Ramadan–one example is 2-income parents sharing childcare by working different shifts.
          (And now that I think of it, that existing tradition of flexibility for safety might be how my “butts in seats” employer pivoted to WFH so quickly at the start of the pandemic.)

        3. seriously?*

          this is such inappropriate fearmongering about dangerous foreign religious it’s unreal.

        4. Larz*

          One of the purposes of fasting is to teach you empathy; if you know what it feels like to go hungry and thirsty, then when you see someone in need, you will feel compelled to help them. I understand how from an employer’s perspective, an employee with low energy is less than ideal, but not everything is about productivity. In Palestine, Ramadan is not only fasting all day, it’s a celebration at night, with special foods and families gathering, and many businesses simply shut down or keep very limited hours. Trying to observe/celebrate Ramadan and Eid in the United States can be pretty miserable, and employers who are only concerned about productivity are part of the misery. I’m fortunate to work with a lot of Muslims, both employees and customers, so we all–Muslim and non-Muslim–get on board with extending a little grace during this time.

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        I looked at the headline and was frankly expecting to see accommodation requests that were *genuinely* outside the reasonable range to try and manage. “My employee says their religion requires that they do no work on roughly half the days in the year,” for example (technically possible for certain centuries-old Christian traditions, though nobody really practices that way anymore). Or “My employee demands the right to proselytize to their coworkers and to our clients, none of whom have consented to listen to them do so.” Basically, the religious equivalent of the “medical accommodation” we saw once in which everyone in the office was under orders to line up by alternating genders at the bus stop and forbidden from wearing their wedding rings unless they had a matching ring on the other hand, in order to accommodate an employee with OCD. Something on that level of interference with other people’s rights or the company’s ability to function.

        Instead we got… that they *want to take lunch at a different time of day*? If this is your worst staff scheduling problem, LW, you’re a very lucky manager.

        1. Willis*

          Yes! I was expecting the same. It’s really hard for me to imagine taking lunch at a slightly different time as an undue hardship that couldn’t be accommodated. There’s a big gap between potential minor inconvenience and a hardship that would require denying an accomodation. It strikes me as though the OP is looking for a reason to ding this guy or blame him for the fact that she had to use some capital to get what was needed.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            The LW commented somewhere above that the shifting of the lunch schedule sometimes means that the break is interfering with international calls or meetings. It’s causing more work for them, but they’ve been trying to accommodate it wherever possible. The straw that broke the camel’s back was being asked to work more hours at no extra pay. I can’t blame them for being frustrated about that!

            1. The New Wanderer*

              I think OP unfortunately buried the lede. There would likely be more sympathy to the OP if they led with “accommodations for my employee are forcing me to work more hours at no extra pay,” which objectively sucks and demonstrates that the company isn’t handling accommodations well, and not “their request for an alternate lunch break is sometimes hard on scheduling” (which seems like a relatively minor complaint).

            2. Dahlia*

              But what if they had an employee who needed to pump at that time, or who needed to eat on a strict schedule for medical reasons? The issue is how rigid their workplace is, not people being human.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Yeah, i expected a lot worse than “we have to reschedule a meeting” or occasionally lower work performance.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I thought it was going to be a case where the employee wanted to infringe on other people’s rights due to their religion. Not just regular, everyday accommodations.

          2. Rose*

            I think having to reschedule a difficult to schedule meeting was the theoretical.

            This is why people don’t disclose until well after they’re given an offer. OP is brainstorming things to be unhappy about and even then their examples are crap. Acting like being religious and needing very minor accommodations is some horrible thing their employee should have “fessed up” to sooner.

            1. Clisby*

              Even with a difficult to schedule meeting, I don’t see the problem with just scheduling it anyway, this employee misses the meeting, and a manager/team leader/whoever fills the employee in on what happened. Unless this employee is providing key information that’s the whole reason for the meeting, what’s the big deal? Surely whoever schedules these meetings does it to suit the majority of people who need to be there – not everyone.

              1. Aggretsuko*

                Eh, scheduling the meeting at a different time is a regular thing, but OP said above that they literally have to have two of the same meeting just because of this person’s timing issues. I can see why it’s getting difficult if that’s the case.

          3. SciDiver*

            Right? If they need to miss a meeting that can’t easily be rescheduled there’s two basic outcomes: their attendance is truly necessary and the meeting can’t run without them (move the meeting) or the meeting goes forward and they review the minutes/notes/have a quick debrief to get the essentials. Seems like OP’s org being overly rigid is making these much higher stakes than they need to be.

        3. Green great dragon*

          I don’t think it’s quite that simple – LW needed to use capital to avoid the immediate solution of LW needing to work longer hours, which as Alison said is outside the reasonable range. But it’s the wider company here that seems to be the problem, not the employee’s requests (and I agree the tone in respect of something that could be accommodated with ‘miniml frustration’ is off-putting).

          1. JustaTech*

            Yeah, from OP1’s comments above it sounds like their company is incredibly rigid. It’s not clear to me if the company is rigid because that’s how their industry works (legal requirements about coverage/not sleeping), or if it’s just the company culture.
            But it’s that rigidity that’s making OP1 need to use capital for things that would be trivial/non-events in less rigid companies.

          2. Observer*

            Yeah, but the bottom line is that nothing that the OP mentions is unreasonable to accommodate. The fact that the OP has a problem is not the employee’s fault or an indicator that the employee was asking for an unreasonable accommodation. And that’s the problem with the question.

            The OP completely failed to recognize who was being unreasonable here. It was NOT the employee, it was the employer. By a long shot.

        4. DataSci*

          I was expecting a Mike Pence-style “My male employee refuses to have 1:1 meetings with women” or something that would actually be an unreasonable accommodation. A different lunch break? Seriously?

      3. BRR*

        Yeah “what if they don’t say anything until their first couple of weeks?” is a little….concerning. This wasn’t a gotcha moment like if a new hire wanted to drastically change their work schedule or duties. Alison recommends candidates don’t bring up accommodations until the offer stage so it’s less likely to be used against them. Not that it’s the only time to bring up accommodations.

        1. A Library Person*

          Exactly. Attitudes like this are probably the main reason Alison does recommend waiting until after starting to bring up simple accommodations.

        2. Natalie*

          It’s also worth noting that needed accommodations can be requested *at any time* during someone’s employment. People’s medical needs change, they convert to new religions or become more observant, and so on. There is no time limit on these rights.

          1. OhNo*

            That’s a very good point that’s worth considering. I could see the timing making the LW feel like it was a surprise, or a bait-and-switch, and that mental attitude might make it frustrating. But framing it as “needs change” might help with that aspect of it.

          2. Weekend Please*

            Some people may also prefer to scope things out so that they can be specific in their accommodation request and mindful of how it affects the work flow. I haven’t had to ask for religious accommodations, but I have had to ask for medical ones. It goes much better when I have a specific idea for a solution I would be happy with and know would work well for everyone else.

            1. Rosalind Franklin*

              I lead third shift teams at a company with lots of opportunity for growth – during the day, mostly. While we are working on night options, in the meantime, I always stressed to my team “if you want to do something, bring me your ask, and I’ll see if I can do it. You are the one who is best able to come up with something that makes sense for you – we all know how the work goes, but you’re the only one who knows how you go.” Otherwise, a) I might propose something that doesn’t make sense for them (stay late and hit a morning session when they normally sleep right after work vs coming in early for a late afternoon session), and honestly b) it’s work for me to think of ways to change schedules. This way, I do less work and they are more likely to get exactly what they need from me. Win win.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            A very good point. I just realised I didn’t ask for all my accommodations at once (various health issues) because I didn’t want to cost the company a lot of cash within days of starting.

            My special chair alone is over £1k. I desperately require that (can’t sit in normal office chairs or meeting room chairs without serious pain), definitely require a disabled parking space upfront, but I can cope without bright light reduction/special keyboard and mouse/accommodations for loud repeating noises a bit longer.

      4. kittymommy*

        OP#1 is acting like they’ve somehow been duped,

        This is the feeling I got as well (and made me prickly too). The undertone comes across as that they know they have to accommodate legally but it’s annoying so where’s the line that I can let them go and not get sued. That’s just not a good stance in any situation.

      5. Anonymous Hippo*

        There is a comment by the OP up above that shows that the company in question is extremely rigid, which is why making these accommodations are difficult for the LP, if you haven’t seen it.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      Thanks or saying this so clearly, and I’m sorry it always takes non-Christians to point out what should be able for anyone to grasp. (I’m a lapsed Catholic with a Jewish spouse, so I’m very familiar with this exact can of worms that keeps getting tossed into the lap of those who practice a non-Christian religion.)

      People in workplaces are people, with commitments outside work, and imperfect bodies, so there will be fluctuations of productivity. A pregnant employee may need certain breaks, an employee with an injury or disability may be unable to sit uninterrupted for extended lengths of time, and sometimes, for various reasons, employees aren’t able to eat on a schedule that’s optimized for job performance. In the end, averaged over a productive team, it’ll shake itself out.

      (Not that we haven’t seen examples that I’d call “excessive demands for religious accommodation” – for example when a man claims that he can’t be meeting 1:1 with a woman, or won’t serve gay people. That is, if the religious rules directly )

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Oh, I meant to say: If dealing with these normal human fluctuations means the OP has to work longer hours, their team is understaffed / the staffing formula is off.

        1. Anonymous Mouse*

          Not necessarily. It could be that the employee was after the ability to work at hours when the company would otherwise be closed, and in order to do that the manager had to be working too (there was a story I read, maybe here somewhere) where an employee was effectively demanding that key daily meetings with their manager be held at ungodly times in the morning or something.

          1. Forrest*

            Love the use of “ungodly” here. “I’m sorry, 10am is a godly time. Can we move that meeting to a less godly time?”

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yeah this is like an act of God, which actually gets cited in insurance policies, and contracts, and I’m like “OK prove it”!

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Sorry I meant to say :
                yeah this is like the expression “an act of God”, which actually gets cited in insurance policies, and contracts, and I’m like “OK prove it”!

                1. Adrienne*

                  I’m not sure, I don’t think it’s stated explicitly in the rules, but I think existential epistemological thought exercises might be considered derailing.
                  lol

    3. Marzipan*

      I one had to push back VERY strongly against my then manager, who wanted me to go and serve accommodation-related paperwork on a Muslim family on a date that coincided with Eid. (While not leaving them homeless, it was going to result in a move to a different property and therefore a degree of stress and hassle for them.) It just had not crossed her mind at all that there was any reason not to do it that day – and even when I pointed it out, she didn’t immediately agree that we should reschedule; she was annoyed that her timetable was being inconvenienced. I had to invoke ‘you wouldn’t do this on Christmas Day’ and basically straight-up refuse to do it that day before she conceded we should reschedule.

      1. Paperdill*

        I used to be a community nurse visiting new parents and babies. I always have my Muslim clients a chance to reschedule any visits that were going to land on Eid, but they never declined. In fact, they welcomed me in with open arms and fed me lots of delicious food (occaisional perks of the job).

        1. CoveredInBees*

          That sounds positively delightful. I’m sure they appreciated your offer and might even be part of your warm welcome.

        2. Beth*

          I volunteered some years back for a group supporting the local Somali refugee community. I remember one meeting a few weeks before Ramadan, which went more or less like this:

          Other (white) volunteer: We can start the next round of this evening program on X date.

          Me: That’s during Ramadan. We should wait till afterwards.

          Other volunteer: But it’s an evening program. Why can’t we hold it during Ramadan?

          Me: Because the women will all be too tired every evening to get much out of the program.

          The other volunteer still didn’t quite get it, but it wasn’t her decision. The group organizer firmly settled on a starting date after Ramadan.

          After the meeting, one of the Somali women on whose behalf we were doing this thanked me! She told me that, at the end of the day, even when the day had been short (this was a year when Ramadan fell during the late autumn) they were always exhausted. During those days, they were cooking — while fasting! — the big celebratory meals that everyone ate after sunset. By 8 pm, everyone was ready for bed.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Damn, well done you. This is on a par with my boss asking my black report to stay late (here in Europe) on the day Obama was being sworn in as president for the first time (i.e. she’d miss the ceremony).
        And he wanted her to stay late so he could fire her without me being around to make sure he was doing it as per the letter of the law (as a foreigner and being new to the workforce, my report didn’t know about the complex firing procedure he should have followed).
        So not only did she miss the ceremony, she didn’t even feel like joining in the celebrations afterwards.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      Something about LW1 really got to me.

      Because the letter really gives the vibe that LW1 would have found a way not to hire them due to religious discrimination, if they could have. Nothing the LW talks about in their letter is a major inconvenience, in any way, shape or form.

      The LW’s point of no return on is apparently a standing meeting, for which the solution would be 1) If the meeting can’t proceed without that person, change the time or 2) if they’re not essential to being there, then they don’t attend. It’s such a minor issue for justifying not hiring or firing someone due to their religion.

      1. Maxie*

        The tone of OP #1 reminds me of an old post from a manager who felt duped that his new hire did not tell him she was pregnant until after she started the job.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          And at least thats a serious imposition. One that can and should be accommodated, but I can see someone being unhappy to have it dropped on them.

          This is just so minor. It takes more effort to write this letter than to solve most of these issues.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            My old company got burned twice by this in a short period of time which really sucked for a lot of people after them. The company was known to be very female and family friendly and had hired many pregnant women and new mothers. I’m sure there are a lot of areas in the company that still do have that reputation, but I guarantee that it won’t happen in the department I was in after those two incidents. I do believe those individuals were anomalies and most people wouldn’t do what they did, but their actions are why there is that hesitancy to hire pregnant women in the business world.
            (I was not the hiring manager)

            1. Becca*

              That’s pretty problematic. An employee being pregnant isn’t getting “burned,” and it’s definitely not the fault of pregnant women that businesses discriminate.

              1. CupcakeCounter*

                It wasn’t them being pregnant – it was actually an incredible place to work as a pregnant and then nursing parent – it was 2 back-to-back instances of bad faith/intent on the part of the women hired for the role. I posted some additional details below and since I was in an adjacent department under the same manager for both, I actually lived through this real time and saw the impact. It wasn’t simply “maternity leave is inconvenient” – one was actively lying in order to get the job and the other ghosted us shortly after returning from maternity leave and the legal department had to get involved in order to get our equipment returned.
                The company still actively advertises their forward thinking policies around parental leave but my old manager honestly would have a hard time not discriminating. I’m not saying its right and I don’t necessarily think he is actively doing it either – I would probably call it “slightly more conscious bias”.

                1. Anon Dot Com*

                  It’s still illegal and shitty, though. If your department had happened to hire two Latino employees and they both acted poorly and were soon fired, would you say, “We somewhat-consciously don’t hire Latino candidates, but it’s not really our fault”? I mean, really. There will always be “reasons” to justify discrimination. That doesn’t make it right.

            2. Amtelope*

              Discriminating against pregnant employees is wrong. The reason that people don’t disclose that they’re pregnant until after they’re hired is because they fear that they will be discriminated against. If your company would have hired these employees anyway, why is it an issue that they didn’t reveal they were pregnant until after they’re hired? If your company wouldn’t have hired them, that’s discrimination.

              1. CupcakeCounter*

                That is the thing though…the company was well known to actively hire and treat pregnant women really well (lots of women in leadership positions and flexible scheduling and WFH to accommodate). In the time I was there, I know if at least 13 women who were hired while pregnant and things went really well. They really appreciated being treated like any other candidate and told up front what the parental leave policy and benefits were since they wouldn’t be eligible for FMLA at the time of delivery. We also had some of the best and lowest cost insurance in the area which was another draw.
                And then we had 2 people really burned us because they blatantly lied about their intentions and availability. It cause significant hardship and we ended up losing other people over it because of the area they were hired for (payroll). One started work quite late in their pregnancy pregnant and trained with a soon to be retired person who generously gave 6-months notice (which they extended when we hired the new person because of the timing of her maternity leave). They worked together until she had the baby and then returned after 12 weeks maternity leave only to stop showing (no call or communication at all) shortly after the retiree moved out of state. We had to send a certified letter from our legal team in order to get the computer equipment back.
                The second individual was told during the hiring process about a planned leave of her counterpart for the month of October (about 4 months from her interview) and that, barring emergencies, she would need to be available that entire month and would that be an issue? She said no and was hired. In early September she notified HR that she would be leaving for maternity leave in 2 weeks and that was how we found out she was pregnant (she was a very tall and on the larger side so with the clothing she preferred it wasn’t obvious and since she had only been there a short time no FMLA was involved). When the hiring manager asked why she said she would be available in October if she was due at the end of September, she responded that she wouldn’t have gotten the job if she said she wasn’t available and figured the other person could just change their plans since her reasons for that time off were “better than a vacation”. Again, this was the payroll department so it can’t just be unmanned for a month and the other person had requested their time off over a year prior and spent a very significant amount of time and money so we weren’t going to cancel their PTO request. They ended up letting the pregnant lady go since she operated in bad faith and was still in her probationary period and had to recall the prior person in that position who had moved elsewhere in the company. We ended up losing her a few months later since that was the 3rd time she’d been pulled back to that department and she was sick of it.
                The company as a whole is still very pro-parent but that department…not-so-much

                1. boop the first*

                  This is an awful lot, but it makes it sound like you presented “boss was burned after hiring pregnant women” in a way to alert people to the risks of hiring pregnant woman, using a story that doesn’t sound like it has much to do with pregnancy at all?

                  Sounds like they hired a couple of people who lied and stole equipment and don’t have much of a work ethic. You don’t have to be pregnant for that.

                2. Tinker*

                  This sounds like a case like that XKCD cartoon where a guy is writing a mathematical error on a chalkboard and someone comments “wow you suck at math” and in the next panel a woman is writing the same thing and the commenter instead says “wow, girls suck at math”.

                3. MCMonkeybean*

                  Those are very different scenarios then just “they were pregnant” which is what you were responding to. Your initial comment reads as “my company won’t hire people who disclose that they are pregnant because two people were pregnant and didn’t disclose it” which both makes no sense and is highly problematic.

                  Though it’s still honestly still pretty problematic that the takeaway from these scenarios is apparently not to hire pregnant people because one time a person who was pregnant lied to us.

                4. Observer*

                  So, these two women acted really badly. But your boss’ reaction is not that much better. This was not being burned by pregnant people, this was being burned by people lacking in honesty.

                  I would also point out two things. With the first woman, the issue of pregnancy is a red herring. The fact that she ghosted you and you had to chase her for the equipment she had has nothing to do with her pregnancy unless you are leaving out some significant details.

                  In the second case, you did not lose someone solely because of the bad behavior of a pregnant woman. After all, you did not have *THREE* women do this to you, yet it was the THIRD time that the other person got pulled back into the role. So, why is this about “pregnant person cost us an employee” rather than “string of problematic events cost us an employee”?

                5. marked vs unmarked groups*

                  If two White men pulled these shenanigans no one would say “clearly White men are problematic and we shouldn’t hire any more of them”, nor defend such a statement.

            3. Two Dog Night*

              So your department won’t hire pregnant women? That seems rather discriminatory. If you’re now a hiring manager, you might want to re-think this.

              1. CupcakeCounter*

                I’m not there anymore and not a hiring manager (nor do I ever want to be…I think I would be terrible!)
                And I don’t know if he won’t ever hire another pregnant woman (see details of the issues above – it wasn’t simply the “inconvenience” of covering maternity leave, in one case it was flat out lie and bad intent in order to get the job) but I know he isn’t actively advertising the very parent friendly policies at that place like he used to.

            4. Sondheim Geek*

              but their actions are why there is that hesitancy to hire pregnant women in the business world.

              And the hesitancy to hire pregnant women int he business world is why women don’t disclose pregnancies until they have the job.

              1. Becca*

                Exactly. I doubt a company would deal with two bad male employees in a row and then decide “well, guess we just shouldn’t hire men!”
                The insidious ways pregnancy discrimination is accepted in hiring and employment drives me batty.

                1. Observer*

                  I doubt a company would deal with two bad male employees in a row and then decide “well, guess we just shouldn’t hire men!”

                  Exactly!

              2. Doc in a Box*

                When I was applying for medical school (circa 2006), the unofficial advice was if you were a woman, not to wear a wedding or engagement ring to interviews because then the admissions committee would assume you were going to get pregnant immediately and “waste your education.”

      2. Mx*

        It was suggested that OP would have to work additional hours. That’s a major inconvenience!
        Agree with everything else you said.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Which the OP pushed back against and succeeded. Then attributed it to the employee rather than see that their management are the ones being idiots.

          1. onco fonco*

            Yes! If this stuff is causing LW hassle then that is on management, who really, really should be prepared for this sort of thing. If the company can’t handle this then it needs a team of robots. Don’t employ humans and then act like they pulled a bait and switch when they want to do basic human stuff.

      3. allathian*

        There isn’t even a standing meeting that would cause inconvenience, the last paragraph is a “what if” kind of thing. I get the feeling that the LW is annoyed because the employee keeps asking for more and more accommodations, first the lunch at a different time one day a week, then some other minor but doable accommodations, then an accommodation that would have resulted in longer hours for the LW, although they were able to push back on that. After that the LW noticed a poorer performance that the employee said was caused by fasting, and that’s what seems to be the big issue here. And it really shouldn’t be, because it should be normal and accepted that people’s performance may not always be 100 percent for whatever reason. The fact that the reason is voluntary fasting to fulfill a religious obligation rather than caused by a chronic illness that flares up occasionally shouldn’t really come into it. It’s really not okay to ask people to be less observant because their religious traditions are inconvenient at work, unless it’s something really outrageous that affects other people in a negative way, like if your religion requires you to strip naked at noon and run around the office, you’re going to get arrested for indecent exposure and probably fired with no repercussions for the employer.

        It has to be said, though, that the employee may not be a Muslim even if that seems to be the assumption. Although if the altered lunch hour was on a Friday, it might coincide with midday prayers. That said, the LW hasn’t said anything about the employee taking extra breaks during the day to pray. I do know that some Muslims only pray at work on Fridays.

        1. Forrest*

          What it looks like to me is that the manager is fairly ignorant about and uninterested in the employee’s religion, treats every request as a huge imposition, and then blames the employee for not being “honest” with them.

          Like, a manager with a more positive frame of mind would have heard the first mention of “I’m Muslim” (or whatever religion this employee has) and either said something like, “oh— listen, let me know if you want to have a conversations about how that affects your working patterns and any accommodations you might need”, and gone away and done some reading off their own bat about what kind of accommodations *might* be necessary and done some proactive thinking about it.

          But if you’re creating an atmosphere where every request for an accommodation is like pulling teeth, don’t be surprised that your employee puts it off as long as possible.

          1. allathian*

            Bingo!
            That said, people’s religious practices vary widely and it’s unwise to assume that just because someone fasts during Ramadan that they also pray every day at work, or vice versa. Don’t assume someone needs an accommodation without asking, but thinking about what they might need is a good idea.

          2. Camelid coordinator*

            I think this is the answer the OP is looking for. Next time the first request should result in some thinking about what else might be needed and then offer that to the employee.

        2. OhNo*

          You know, you have a good point that part of the frustration might stem from getting the requests one at a time. I can see having to revisit accommodations repeatedly getting a little frustrating, especially if the process the LW has to go through to get them in place is onerous.

          Honestly, it sounds to me like LW might be in BEC-mode towards this particular employee. It sounds like even a little request is just one more irritation. If that’s the case, just realizing where you’re at mentally might help. It won’t solve the problem or get rid of the frustration right away, but it’s a good first step.

          1. TransmascJourno*

            I get the feeling that the requests might be coming in one at a time because the employee might sense the OP’s attitude towards these accommodations as a whole. In toxic work places I’ve been in previously where I’ve had similar experiences with regards to my observant Judaism, when I sensed that my taking off for Rosh Hashanah for both days and Yom Kippur for one was seen as a “difficulty” rather than a request for a fairly workable accommodation—one that wouldn’t put undue hardship on anyone else—I didn’t mention recurring accommodations (like keeping kosher) or other religious holidays I’d need to take off for fear or provoking a more outsize backlash. Which seems to be happening here for the employee—the OP is placing blame on their religious observance rather than approach it from outside a Christian cultural framework, or on how the management should actually have already had a plan in place for these kinds of accommodations. (This is also why I don’t disclose religious accommodations or anything related to them until after I’m hired, either.)

            1. OhNo*

              Oh, absolutely. I have no judgement at all for the employee wanting to spread out their requests, or putting them off until they were needed, especially given the attitude that their manager seems to be bringing to the situation.

              But from the LW’s perspective, I can also see how that situation might lead to more frustration than might otherwise occur. And since they’re the one who wrote in for help, it seems like it’s worth noting the possibility in case it helps them get over it or even just view it from an outside perspective.

            2. Anon Dot Com*

              Yep. Another observant Jew here. If LW wants their employee to request all religious accommodations up front, they need to *cultivate a relationship and work environment where it is safe to do so.* Something tells me this is not happening.

      4. Delta Delta*

        This was the sense I had, too. I suspect the employee probably also did, which is why she said nothing for a few weeks.

    5. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management consultant*

      Thank you for this.
      You’re absolutely right on every count.

    6. MK*

      I don’t actually don’t disagree with what you say, but can everyone stop ignoring that the OP was pressured to work more hours unpaid to accommodate the religious observance of another employee? And that she had to use capital to push back?

      1. allathian*

        That’s a fair point. I think that if pushing back had meant some negative consequences for the LW, people would have talked more about this.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        That would still involve the OP blaming the employee for something their management is doing.

        And quite frankly liaising with more senior management and discussing and finding solutions for things like this is literally the job of a manager. Pretending it’s some horrific position to be put in and beyond the pale is really stretching.

        1. Observer*

          That would still involve the OP blaming the employee for something their management is doing.

          True.

          And quite frankly liaising with more senior management and discussing and finding solutions for things like this is literally the job of a manager. Pretending it’s some horrific position to be put in and beyond the pale is really stretching.

          Except this is not an accurate description of what happened to the OP. The company had some pretty ridiculous expectations of the OP. And it is NOT “literally the job” of a manager to burn capital to get reasonable accommodations in place. So, while it’s not the employee’s fault, this is also not the OP “pretending” that they were put in a bad position. They WERE ACTUALLY being put in a bad position.

      3. Chc34*

        But that’s a problem with OP’s managers, not with the fact that an employee needed religious accomodations. The OP’s tone is very much “how do I get out of having to give accomodations,” not “how do I get my managers to come up with alternate ways to accomdate my employee”

      4. Sana*

        As a Muslim I question how many more hours are actually being accrued that the OP has to cover. Given a 2 hour lunch break may be required on Fridays that would account for the OP having to fill 1 or 2 vacant hours on a Friday. Then Ramadan only lasts 20 days of the working year if we exclude the weekends. So they are complaining about 20 slightly sluggish days out of 300 a year. We all know productivity slips starting December and an allowance is made. Thirdly many employers complain we pray at work. Given the morning prayer is before break fast, the only time one would pray at work would be for zuhr the second prayer around 2pm ish and this should not take the employee more than 10-15 mins max. Some people in the uk at least take free smoking breaks and no one complains about that or they need to take an extra long lunch for pet related care or leave at 3pm to pick up their kids from school and no one bats an eyelid but when a Muslim fasts for only 20 days a year and takes 10 mins out to pray the managers have concerns about performance or fairness? Anyway the point I’m making is how many overtime hours could OP possibly be working because from my calculation it wouldn’t be more than 2 hours on Fridays and 15 mins to pray in the afternoon everyday, which is the equivalent to a smoke break. This doesn’t seem like enough time wasted to make a serious impact on OPs work. And if 1 or 2 hours overtime unpaid is an issue then shouldn’t OP request additional compensation for the hours to her managers or ask the employee to make up the missed couple hours on Friday by staying later in the office that day or spread the hours to be made up across the week?
        Lastly I have worked in places full of non Muslims who didn’t even know it was Ramadan and I have fasted. Guess what they didn’t even notice a performance issue. The OPs subconscious bias seems to be making a bigger issue out of this than it is and they need to reflect on why that may be.

        1. allathian*

          The OP is exempt and salaried, meaning that they don’t have a set number of working hours and can’t be paid extra. But that pushback worked and they didn’t have to.

          That said, because I have flexible working hours, I prefer to work longer days the other days of the week so that I can leave early on Fridays while still getting everything done. My office also has an unofficial policy of no meetings past 3 pm on Fridays unless it’s an emergency or otherwise unavoidable. I’d really resent it if I had to work late on a Friday because of another coworker’s accommodation, no matter what the reason for that accommodation was. Luckily my job doesn’t need continuous coverage even during business hours, so it’s unlikely to ever become an issue for me.

          1. Sana*

            I see this must be another difference between the UK US. I am a payee employee so I also have a fixed yearly salary however due to unionisation we were able to introduce flexible working and overtime pay policies. If this were to happen here the employee would just make up missed hours spread across the week and the manager would be paid overtime where additional hours are accrued. I do hope the US improves its working policies and solidarity with those of you who unionise for better conditions!

            1. SarahKay*

              That definitely varies by workplace though. I’m also in the UK, salaried, and considered part of management, and I wouldn’t (don’t!) get paid overtime if (when) I had to work longer hours to cover something.

              1. onco fonco*

                I’m in the UK, always been salaried and never paid overtime in my life – not at any level.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Honestly if it’s an uncommonly strict Lent fast, that’s twice as long as Ramadan. (A former co-worker says “I don’t know how they do it” about family who eat as little as possible for all forty days of Lent.)

        3. TransmascJourno*

          @Sana +10000000000. This struck me too. It reminds me of that one letter where a non-Jewish employee worked for an Orthodox Jewish boss and was writing in about how they couldn’t use the kitchen or fridge during Passover because the boss was worried it would be rendered unkosher for the holiday—but in reality, the change up only affected the employee for a few working days (I think three), and the non-Jewish employees could still eat whatever they wanted at their work areas (even unkosher stuff year-round) and we’re welcome to store their food for those days in their area. In the end, the OP saw the situation was totally workable and the boss was more than happy to find solutions that would be fair to everyone.

      5. Your Local Password Resetter*

        True. But that was a suggestion from her management, not a request from the employee.
        And since this letter is about how the OP can handle her employee’s accomodations, thats what people are focusing on. If she wants to adress problems with her workload, thats a seperate matter.

        1. Sana*

          didn’t she say she would have had to work extra hours due to the accommodations until she pushed back? In my mind extra hours means additional workload. Or having to take on tasks the employee can’t do due to their absence?

          1. Self Employed*

            Their company policy said the manager has to be onsite any time there are employees onsite, and when OP’s employee wanted to shift their hours by 1 hour/day, that meant OP had to work 9 hours to supervise the religious employee 9-6 and the rest of their staff 8-5.

      6. doreen*

        I can’t quite figure out why she would have to work extra hours unpaid , or who suggested that she would have to work additional unpaid hours to accommodate the employee. There’s only one thing I can think of – she’s got to take over running the cash register or answering the phone or something similar while he take a 15 minute break to pray and that causes her departure time to be pushed back by 15 minutes. But I don’t think any manager would really refer to that as “unpaid extra hours” and if that’s the situation, I’m not sure there’s any way around it even using capital, so I’m guessing that’s not the issue.

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

          There seems to be some need for ‘coverage’ whether that’s literally butts in seats or phone-answering etc, or some requirement that x number of suitably qualified people are available (e.g. in childcare where there has to be a certain ratio of adults to kids), etc. Or it was assumed (by her bosses) that OP would “fill in” for the work being missed by the employee, and when she talked about the impact on her own workload was told something like “you’re salaried and you are paid for delivering the work rather than for a set number of hours”.

          Another part of it (not mentioned by the OP but something that I’ve encountered before as a manager and ‘backup’ person) is that if there are certain times the employee needs to be “backed up for” in addition to the normal schedule, and one person (the OP in this case) is on the hook for those times… even if it’s “only” 2 hours on a Friday or 15 minutes here and there for prayer times — the person who is the “backup” then ipso facto cannot take any time off on those days they’re required to be the backup. If it’s every Friday that means the backup person can never take a full week off, etc.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            The LW commented somewhere above that they were basically expected to work an extra hour every day to accommodate the employee. It was phrased something like, “if my employee is on site, then I was told I have to be on site.” So even if that person doesn’t need your supervision, you have to physically be there because they are still in the building. That’s what was pretty unfair!

            1. Self Employed*

              The employee wanted to shift their hours by a full hour–working 8 hours but 1 hour out of synch with the rest of the staff. LW had to be there all 9 hours that LW + staff were onsite.

      7. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

        Agreed. (Though think as written Op implies full disclosure at the offer stage means not hiring.)

      8. Clisby*

        It’s not like the employee seeking accommodation ordered the manager to take over extra hours. I can understand the LW’s frustration at being pressured to do that, but the source of the problem is with their management.

    7. OP1*

      So I posted some more information above, but I do want to clarify that I have no issue with making accommodations, some people below rightly got that it was more about the way the accommodation requests came in that I found frustrating at the time. It wasn’t “hey due to my religion I need x,y, and z” from day one, to which my response would have been “ok, let’s figure out how to make that happen” it was “hey I need this accommodation” two weeks in when I got things settled, so I had to scramble and work in the accommodation. Then a month went by and it was another request, so I had to do everything again. And then again a month later. I did learn to have a broader discussion when someone brings up the need for accommodations for sure to make sure that I’m covering them from the start.

      The rest of the question was not me trying to skirt accommodations, I was just curious about what constitutes undue hardship. I think best in hypotheticals so the examples I put at the end were just that, examples so I could get a clearer picture.

      1. Sal*

        I thought your examples were fine as hypotheticals (caveat: I’m a lawyer, so hypotheticals are my jam, and don’t seem like someone “brainstorming things to get upset about”), and I saw above your clarifications, and I want to validate that you do seem like you are making accommodations. Which is good! Totally how it’s supposed to work!

        I also appreciate the haziness of the word “undue” because the things you are talking about are fairly perceived as hardships, and then it really does become a question of how big a deal they are. I also think it’s clear that you’re on the same page as most of the commentariat that, for the most part, the answer is “not very big”. I understand that the pile-on is likely very unpleasant this morning, but I think you’re doing the right thing and you should keep doing it.

        The other thing I’ll add is that, while it would certainly be easier if people knew what kind of accommodations they’ll require upfront, that just doesn’t seem to be how it goes in a bunch of different contexts, from disability to religion to pregnancy to anything else. Maybe this job is more strenuous and your employee hasn’t fallen asleep while fasting in previous jobs. I certainly didn’t know I’d be barfing 3x a day when I got pregnant and wouldn’t have thought to warn my supervisor, even on the front end of the pregnancy.

      2. pancakes*

        Hypotheticals have limited utility, though. Real life is seldom structured the same way it is in fictional pedagogical exercises.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I disagree that hypotheticals have limited utility. It depends on the kind of hypothetical you make, but when it comes to the law many things have no clear cut definition of if X than Y. Using several hypotheticals can help illustrate the definition of undue and how it depends on the overall situation. In hypothetical 1 x accommodation IS NOT an undue burden, but in hypothetical 2 the same x accommodation IS an undue burden because xyz.

          1. pancakes*

            They can be useful in teaching issue-spotting, in a retrospective way – for example, describing a situation for students, and guiding them through spotting potential legal issues based on the narrative they were provided. That’s a very, very different scenario than trying to look forward – for example, “when might I be able to fire this employee for asking for too many accommodations?”

      3. Sharon*

        You can think about it as “what can be done so that it’s possible for this employee to fulfill their job obligations without violating their religious beliefs”? And you need to think about what the core job functions really are because you might need to do things a little differently than you’re used to – is the core job function “attending a Wednesday 8 am meeting” or is it “providing weekly project status updates”? On the other hand, if someone applied for a bartender job and said their religion prohibited them from handling alcohol, it’s hard to see what accommodation would make it possible to do the job.

        Any performance issues should be handled separately. Person isn’t getting their work done? Address that and see what can be done to fix the problem.

      4. nom de plume*

        I mean, you’ve said this twice now, but I doesn’t seem like you’re absorbing the hundreds of comments pointing out that the way you framed your question, and the fact that you made the employee the cause of your frustration rather than your management, is highly problematic.

        It may be that you think best in hypotheticals. It may be that shouldn’t have had to advocate for yourself to not work extra hours. But you need to take responsibility for how you’re letting those facts bleed into how to you treat said employee. And acknowledging, or reflecting upon, people’s excellent points here, would also help you let go of the frustration you feel. There’s no evidence of that in your responses, though.

        1. OP1*

          I am absorbing it, my comments have been to clarify what I meant as my phrasing clearly did not go well. Once again though I will say that I did not intend to come across as if the employee was the source of my frustration with the exception of the fact that they gave me their accommodations one at a time which caused me to have to make multiple changes which would have been easier for me to do at once. I had no problem with the employee requesting accommodations. I did not treat that employee any differently than I treated my other employees.

          1. anxiousUndergrad*

            I understand why you’re frustrated by their bringing up each accommodation only when it comes up, but maybe it will help to see it this way. You never know how someone’s going to react to you being a religious minority, so the employee may have felt uncomfortable drawing attention to this fact. I used to be really upfront with my professors about religious stuff – at the beginning of the semester I would send them an email saying that I needed to miss class on X dates for Jewish holidays. Then I had an uncomfortable interaction with one professor where nothing bad happened, but it did make me realize that I may be setting myself up for discrimination by just openly announcing my religion like that. So now I tell them about missing class closer to the date of the class in the hopes that they’ll focus on the “needing to miss class” part and not the “this student is Jewish” part. I think another commenter also explained it well with this comment:
            “I will take OP1 at their word that they didn’t come at this from a position of deliberate bias, but the reaction from both OP and their management is exactly the sort of unconscious discrimination many of us hope to avoid by not disclosing our need for religious accommodations until we’re sure it’s necessary. Having one’s faith and the practices thereof being treated as an inconvenience is upsetting, even if it’s normalized.”
            Obviously a student missing class is a lot less of an inconvenience than an employee needing to work at different times, and I do understand your frustration with their approach, but I hope you can see why they might have done it this way. And as for the issue with the fasting, the employee was probably hoping that they could just power through it without requesting accommodation.

          2. TransmascJourno*

            Hey OP1–I definitely didn’t intend to accuse or pile on, but please read my previous comments in this thread. I want to be clear that the infrastructure of your employer and a rigid mismanagement is definitely the primary cause, but I hope that maybe you can reflect on what everyone else has been saying, too. I want to add that your frustration is completely understandable and your feelings are valid—but at the same time, I really want to implore you to understand why your employee might not have felt comfortable disclosing their religious accommodations all at once. (Again, see above re: my earlier comments.)

    8. TheFrenchImpaler*

      I sort of understand where the LW was coming from, but it definitely rubbed me the wrong way too.

      Yes, most organizations — whether it’s a nation-state or a small business — are going to function more smoothly if everyone has similar values, beliefs, life patterns, and backgrounds. But it’s also antithetical to diversity, and if you value diversity in any meaningful way, you have to be willing to extend grace and understanding to people who might be different than you, and have the expectation that they will do the same.

      And this extends far beyond just culture and religion — it’s applicable to diversity in gender, different levels of physical and mental ability, race, language, and just about everything else too.

      It really feels like a “I want to have my cake and eat it too” with some problematic icing on top for good measure.

  13. Marzipan*

    #4, if you have any one-to-one time with your manager, I’d be tempted to get into the habit of including sign-off in the discussion and getting him to do it then and there. ‘Great, so we agree that the llama stencils for the teapot project are all complete? Let’s fire up the software and sign that off now so you don’t have to revisit it later.’

    1. Maxie*

      I was thinking the same thing. If you have regular one-on-ones, could you have him log in during the meeting and sign off on each one while you are sitting there? If not, maybe send him a weekly or biweekly reminder, like a meeting, to mark them completed? Or email him every time you finish a deliverable and ask him to sign-off? It sounds like this will take your boss such a small amount of time.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Yes to all of this. And in those reminders, specifically list all items to mark as complete so there’s a written record. Include dates in the reminders if it gets egregious, e.g.:
        Completed week of 4/13 – projects A, B
        Completed week of 4/19 – projects C, D

  14. dyet*

    Even without religious context, people fast for different reasons, be it a diet or heck even due to financial constraints. At the least, this is something you can plan ahead for.

  15. Techpup*

    #4 – Our company uses Jira to track all tasks and their stages of completion, so my answer is based on our experiences with that system. After you complete a task and are waiting for your boss to mark it as complete, leave a comment that says “Work completed on my end, waiting for Boss to mark it as Done.”

    Depending on how customized your system is, other options are changing the status of your task from “In Development” to “Under Review”, or change the assignee to your boss to indicate that now it’s up to him to complete.

    1. OP4*

      We use different software, but my boss could clearly see the tasks were assigned to him and tgat they were just waiting to be .arked complete

      1. allathian*

        Can other people see that they’re just waiting for your manager to mark them as complete? As in, you’ve completed your work and it’s up to him to do his job to finish it? If that’s the case, then people shouldn’t blame you for any delays you can’t do anything about, and you can point them to the software if they do.

        1. OP4*

          They way the software is built means they can see that my manager has to review the task, not that I’m finished.

          1. Threeve*

            It sounds like your boss doesn’t take this software very seriously and trusts you to complete your work. Is there any way to stop requiring his approval–like, could someone else also be allowed to approve your tasks, and agree to go in once a week to clear things out? Every organization I’ve worked at has at least one senior employee who refuses to adapt to a new system, and people always figure out how to work around them.

      2. Mockingjay*

        We also use a tracking system with assignees and status fields. My favorite status: “Waiting on someone else.” I use this one A LOT.

        I feel your pain. I have completed tasks still open 3 years later because the project lead hates the system (it holds him accountable), so he just doesn’t use it. I finally wore him down and told him that if he gives me a verbal “good to go,” I’ll go into the system and close the task for him. “Per Project Lead, task is complete and can be closed.” Really didn’t want the extra work, but tired of being held responsible for bad reporting status.

    2. Not sure of what to call myself*

      In a similar situation but using excel to track I just added “COMPLETED – AWAITING APPROVAL” to each title as a suffix. The reviewer blatantly ignored this until their boss hauled them up at a meeting and pointed out that their (the approvers) record also looked poor also as they were the blockage.

    3. anonyJiraAdmin*

      If the problem is the boss doesn’t have a concrete list of tasks to get through, I agree with you.

      On the other hand, as a Jira admin, I’ve seen so many users try to alter the system with “Under Review” or “Needs Approval” status requests that never get used and tickets languish in a more complicated workflow. (I’ve set up so many fancy dashboards for these exact problems – they never get used.)

      If it’s the kind of boss that doesn’t sound like he would look at “Under Review” tickets then that is a HUMAN problem.

      1. Observer*

        If it’s the kind of boss that doesn’t sound like he would look at “Under Review” tickets then that is a HUMAN problem.

        Of COURSE it’s a human problem! The boss is totally falling down here. The question is, is there some way for the OP to let other people know that even though the boss is not doing his job, the OP actually IS completing their tasks.

  16. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management consultant*

    While I understand the frustration, I have a hard time seeing how “having lunch as at a different time” could an undue hardship.

    (Fasting + performance issues, sure i see how it can be a problem.)

    1. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management consultant*

      I would never have thought to raise this in an interview either. It’s such a minimal issue, in the grand scheme of things.

      1. L*

        You can’t really bring it up in an interview if you’re going to use it as criteria for who to hire.

        1. allathian*

          Indeed. It’s really not something that you could select for, although if it’s a characteristic of office culture that everyone goes to lunch at the same time every day, a savvy interviewer could mention that. If that didn’t work for a candidate, they could self-select out, because there’s a bunch of reasons why that doesn’t work for everyone; someone who spends their entire working day talking on the phone might want to take a lunch alone to decompress rather than join a group of chatty coworkers, or an employee might have an eating disorder that makes it very difficult to eat in the presence of other people (medical accommodation needed).

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

      It seems to be that it’s assumed everyone takes their lunch between 12-2pm (or whatever) so meetings, getting hold of people etc are generally no-go between that time, but before 12 or after 2 are fair game. Employee taking their lunch at 3pm (say) throws that out.

    3. Colette*

      It depends on the job, and whether coverage is required. It could be an issue, especially if it’s a longer than normal break. In most jobs, it would be possible to accommodate, but it might be tricky to do. (I.e. Adam needs to be off from 1-3 but Sam usually takes lunch at 1 because he has a standing medical appointment and Jane is off on Fridays.)

    4. OneTwoThree*

      I had a job where it would be a significant problem. One doctor and one nurse took lunch 12-1 and covered any emergencies 1-2. The rest of the clinic took lunch 1-2 while no patients were scheduled. It probably wouldn’t be much problem if they needed lunch ar 12 to switch with whomever was scheduled early for an hour, but if they needed lunch at 2 or 3, that would be significantly problematic.

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      In almost every place I have worked we have usually staggered our lunch breaks so that there was enough coverage. I really don’t understand how a lunch at a different time could be such a hardship? Is the position dependent on everyone being somewhere or everyone working at a specific time?

      The only time I could see this being a problem is if they are working in a restaurant where taking your lunch at 12 would be hard because everyone needs to be working for the lunch rush.

  17. Maree*

    LW1 – I feel like you need to think very carefully about your assumptions and your motivations here. Assuming a person is dishonest or manipulative can be a racist bias. Genuinely reflect on whether that might be influencing your thinking here. FWIW, I think it is very normal to try a job and see how it goes before asking for accommodations that might not be necessary (I’m a carer and I would do that).

    I sometimes work with people from unfamiliar (to me) religions. I don’t always understand the level of importance to ascribe to different things (days/events/traditions/food needs) and that’s ok because I approach it with a genuine curiosity and desire to understand & respect the other person. It is imperfect but sometimes I think about the same activity in my religion and the level of importance there, for example: a day of penance is common to many religions – it is always a serious occasion, often with fasting/pilgrimage and normally takes place at a prescribed time when all non-religious work stops. So I might not know about the particulars of their religion but I have a general idea about how to act when discussing a day of penance.

    Regarding fasting. I fast sometimes. It is well known that it takes a little time to get used to fasting. The first week or so is tough but then it settles down and you get back to normal productivity pretty quickly. I think you will find that your employee is back to normal very soon.

      1. Maree*

        I’m sorry, I don’t know what this means. Is something wrong? I hope I haven’t caused offence – definitely not my intention.

    1. Threeve*

      Where in the letter is there any indication that OP thinks the employee is dishonest or manipulative?? They even say that they were able to accommodate without too much difficulty.

      The question is mostly a hypothetical about where an employer needs to draw the line if the need for religious accommodations becomes truly burdensome, which is an absolutely valid question.

      1. Reba*

        It’s reading between the lines–but only slightly–that the OP is put out that their employee asked for accommodations after starting work and not before, implying that they ought to have been more forthcoming about their needs. That’s the “dishonest” part.

        I agree it’s a very valid question, just the undercurrent of resentment in the letter is rightfully ringing bells of prejudice for a lot of readers.

        1. OP1*

          You’re reading is very very wrong. I had no assumption that this employee was being dishonest at any point and I don’t think there’s anything in my letter indicating that.

          1. Reba*

            Ok, I can see that “dishonest” is too strong. But your letter indicates pretty clearly that you think it’s problematic that your employee didn’t tell you things at an earlier point than they did, and that means you feel they were withholding something from you that you should have been told.

            I can see you are probably feeling frustrated that the requests have come in piecemeal, and I that I can understand. But I really don’t think you are owed this information on a particular timeline. People’s needs can also change over time! There’s no deadline for this stuff.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I think “owed” is maybe a strong word the company isn’t owed a specific timeline, but the employee should let the company know as soon as possible. If the employee came to you at 1pm and said I need to move the 2pm meeting because of my religious accommodation (especially if it is something they knew about in advance) I think it is fair to be upset with that employee not for the request but for the last minute nature of if.

              I would urge the OP1 to give the employee the benefit of the doubt that they maybe didn’t realize right away all the accommodations they would need. But I can understand OP might be frustrated if they felt that certain requests could have been made earlier and it would have been easier to accommodate them at that time.

              1. OP1*

                Yeah, some of the accommodations I can see as not realizing until later, but the ones around work hours were incredibly frustrating as I always lay it out in the interview, both the hours and the defined lunch thing, since it’s something that I actually didn’t know about when I came on board, so I like to make people aware.

                I get that circumstances can change, but there were somethings that the employee definitely knew from the start.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I do agree with others that thinking/expecting your employee to disclose/request those accommodations during the interview/offer stage is problematic, and you should not expect people to do that. Honestly you are better of not knowing to prevent unconscious bias in your decision making.

                  But also try to remember that often times people forget and make last minute request. I have certainly requested time off the day or two before because I forgot to do it in advance, something came up last minute etc..

                  If things are as meeting heavy as you say and people are spread across the world, it might be a good idea to record phone calls/zoom meetings that people who missed can go back and watch/listen.

                  As others have said it really seems more of a problem with being in an inflexible work environment rather than an issue with the specific employee.

                2. EmKay*

                  Your reaction – and argument – speaks much more to your ingrained social bias than you are in a position to see clearly right now.

                  I promise I am not picking a fight. I’m also not US based, or a christian. So, outside perspective.

                3. Autistic AF*

                  I agree with EmKay. Your employee absolutely could have disclosed sooner, but they are not obligated to share anything past what is legally or medically required to obtain an accommodation, especially when there’s a high probability of it being used against them. Testing the waters is pretty common for minority groups – think identifying as a “friend of Dorothy” when gender/sexual minorities were criminalized. People aren’t going to open up just because it benefits you.

                4. JSPA*

                  “Something is defined” vs “something is so writ-in-stone that it can’t be accommodated” are two different things.

                  Absent something as pressing as tide tables or the need to be absent at the same time so that the room can be irradiation sterilized, I’d take “defined lunch hour” to mean, “it will therefore be noticeable and thus perhaps socially awkward that I’m the only one taking a different hour.” Not, “they can’t possibly accommodate.”

                  Maybe there’s some pressing reason (a rule about no one person being there alone, for example) that makes the accommodation harder than it sounds. But “we are incredibly hide-bound in our patterns” just isn’t an adequate excuse to avoid accommodations.

                5. JSPA*

                  Also, something that I tried to post earlier, but I guess it was under a problematic post, and thus removed:

                  This is not a problem limited to any one particular religion.

                  There are multiple religions for which this description could fit.

                  Could be that they’re shifting lunch to the end of the day on friday to make it home before the start of shabbos/shabbat in winter. And Judaism also has fast days, as do most major world religions–in some of their forms–excepting Sikhism.

                  Buddhist monks, nuns and some general adherents under specific circumstances, don’t eat from (solar or time-clock) mid-day to dawn of the next day (either habitually or on specific days); that’d be a reason to take lunch before noon.

                  If you google “hindu fast days,” there’s quite a list, largely on a moon / day of the week schedule (noting however that many days can wildly irrelevant except within specific sects, even before you consider who’s observant to what degree). Someone particularly observant could (at least in theory) be observing a part-day fast for up to 12 days of every month.

                  Mainstream Catholic fasting (on strict fast-days) allows one full meal “about mid-day” and two small meals (to total less than one normal meal) morning and evening.

                  There are daytime only, sunset to sunset, sunrise to sunrise, and half-day fasts (and many others–“until you see the moon through a sieve with a candle perched in it, or reflected in the water,”) as well as restrictions to certain foods / avoidance of other foods.

                  When a lot of people in your area are engaged in a cultural event (whether that’s a religious fast or March Madness) people just kind of work around how “life slows down a little.” When it’s just the one person, it still should be OK that “life slows down a little,” for cultural events; for religious accommodations, it’s defined by law that this should be OK, in all but the most extreme circumstances.

                  From a purely selfish perspective, the manager of someone whose needs are out of sync with the majority of their coworkers gets some real payoffs.

                  In this specific scenario,

                  you (and your boss and grandboss) get someone who

                  a) knows how to function in sub-optimal conditions / under physical stress and

                  b) is likely to be unstressed and undistracted at times when the rest of the workforce is on “counting down to or recovering from the holidays” auto-pilot.

                  That’s managerial gold, unless you (and your boss /grandboss) are determined to spin it into straw.

                6. Aggretsuko*

                  I get your frustration. However, it’s not always safe to come out with a list of like, 4-5 (or whatever) special needs that everyone else has to work around, and it may have taken them a while to get up the nerve, and maybe it won’t come off quite so bad socially if it’s one request every few weeks instead of a giant laundry list on day one.

                  And frankly, it sounds like with your management, it was probably a good idea for the employee to play it that way.

      2. NeverComments*

        Where the LW basically implies a bait and switch because the employee didn’t bring up the need for religious accommodations after they were offered the job.

  18. OP4*

    Update time:
    I expressed my concern that not marking my tasks complete was making me look unproductive. Unfortuantely that didn’t have an effect.

    I am happy to report that recently my boss went through all the completed tasks with me and told me to mark them as complete. In retrospect, I think marking tasks complete was a low priority since it doesn’t produce anything. Since my boss had a high workload he simply never got to the low priority items.
    He is a good boss otherwise and seems to be thinking of ways to prevent the situation in the future.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      I’m glad they’re looking into a solution! Do you guys have a weekly catch-up meeting or something similar that could be extended to have a standing ‘let’s cover off my completions’ section?

    2. Mannheim Steamroller*

      I was going to suggest that copying the Grand-Boss on all messages to your Boss about clicking the “complete” button.

      Even though clicking that button doesn’t “produce anything,” it still has a very real effect (making you look unproductive and possibly disqualifying you from a bonus or raise).

    3. Generic Name*

      If marking a task as complete doesn’t do anything, why are you using a tracking system at all? Maybe that’s the case from your boss’ perspective but surely someone is running queries or reports to track people’s workload. I think you’re right to want your boss to do his part, and I think it’s weird that he doesn’t see it as something he needs to do.

    4. katz*

      I wonder if boss would be willing to allow a colleague to mark your tasks complete (if, for some reason, you’re not permitted to do it yourself).

      Example:
      Your job is Widget Processing Step A, then you pass to the person responsible for Step B.
      Step B person receives your widgets, sees they are properly Step A processed, and marks your tasks complete.

      This is your boss’s problem to solve, but sometimes you can help yourself by presenting options.

    5. JSPA*

      I’m still not clear if you have the physical access, but not the clearance, to mark the jobs complete. If so, you might cross check with grandboss whether you can act as the boss’s hands, once the boss tells you to do so.

      In which case, this is a scenario for,

      “Dear boss,
      The following tasks were 100% completed this week (A,B,C,D). I have the ability, but not the authority, to check them off as having been completed. I need your “Please do that,” in response to this email, to allow me to do so. Thanks!”

      If you can only log in with boss’s cooperation:

      “Dear boss,
      I have a question on project E that’s easier to go over in person / by skype than describe by email. If you have 5 minutes, I can do that, with time to spare to finish out the marking of tasks A, B, C and D as complete. This will let me close out E and F, without fielding questions about completion dates for A,B,C and D.”

      However:

      Are you fielding questions? Do other people really pay attention to the system? Is anyone actually looking askance at you? Or do you just feel awkward, because YOU buy into the idea of the system?

      It’s entirely possible that not only your boss, but your grandboss and the vast majority of your coworkers all think the new system is pretty much BS; that they have seen tracking systems come and go; and that they are used to the idea that people mark themselves complete, because it’s all BS, anyway.

      It’s worth figuring that out!

      If you get acknowledgement in any form that your boss considers the tasks done / recognizes them as done, this isn’t like timecard fraud (where you are representing something as true, that’s false…or are being paid for hours not worked). There are all sorts of different levels of adherence to administrative rules. So long as your boss has directed you to take charge of your own completion tally, and so long as those tasks really are complete, and so long as you can point to documentation of both those things, this is likely to indeed be your boss’s call, to shift that responsibility back onto you.

  19. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1, i am kind of concerned by the tone of your question. Your employee isn’t some huge inconvenience that you have to resentfully tolerate until they cross a “line” that allows you to fire them. They’re a person with different needs than you. Alison gave some great factual advice but I really hope you can have a think about why you’re so evidently annoyed by things like them having lunch at a different time or the idea of them possibly potentially not being able to attend a standing meeting.

    1. allathian*

      I’m really curious about the field they’re in and why it’s so important to have lunch at the same time as everyone else, every day.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, I’m very curious about why that matters so much. I’m sure there are jobs where it might, but there are also a lot where it wouldn’t.

        (Also, on rereading I was unfair in saying “that allows you to fire them”, I‘m sure OP doesn’t want to fire this person. But I still think this “where is the line???” framing is pretty off.)

      2. KAZ2Y5*

        Not to defend OP1 (because it is an easy fix) but if you work shifts and are needed for coverage it does disrupt the scheduling a little bit. I work in a hospital and the evening shift in our dept is 1:30pm-10pm. Lunch is always scheduled in the middle of the shift and we have lunches scheduled so that everyone both gets a lunch break and we have coverage for what we need. So our evening employee who observes Ramadan is usually scheduled for 6pm lunch, but all the evening breaks get rearranged during Ramadan so they can eat later.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, and this is an entirely fair and normal accommodation, especially in a job that requires coverage and where all employees, by definition, can’t take a break at the same time.

          Even in jobs where it’s theoretically possible, it may not be practical for everyone to take a break at the same time, because there may not be enough space to eat and staggering lunch will make queues shorter, if everyone doesn’t bring their own lunch. And even if they do, there’s rarely enough space in the break room for everyone to eat at the same time, and especially not in a pandemic.

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          A different lunch break would be an actual inconvenience in a line manufacturing setting as well. If you need six people all doing their task and passing the doohickey down to the next person, being one person short really matters. Either doohickeys keep piling up at the empty spot (which means people downstream don’t have work), other people slide around to do the work (which means they are working twice as fast or leaving their own work to pile up), or you get in a sub (who was probably doing something else). There is a reason everybody at factories takes their breaks together.

          While I don’t see any reason this question comes from a manufacturing plant, I also don’t see any reason why it doesn’t. Not everybody works at a desk mostly alone. Push back on religious bias, by all means, but don’t assume everybody’s job looks like yours.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            A different lunch break would also being disruptive to some customer-facing government jobs. For example, my mother runs an office in county government that serves the public. They have a certain number of stations, but they’re not all doing the same task. At 12:00 they close for a one-hour lunch. Everyone in line gets to keep their place in line, but all customers are asked to leave the lobby and they lock up the office for that hour. That schedule is set by the county commissioners.

            If the one person who does passports is away from their station at a different time than everyone else, it could be really disruptive. That might mean 2 hours each day that someone can’t come in and get what they need from that station. It’s not impossible to work around, but it causes delays and puts a kink in a cog that otherwise runs smoothly.

            1. I'm just here for the cats*

              Sorry, but that sounds like terrible customer service. I would hate to be the next person in line and then be told that I have to wait an hour so everyone can have lunch.

          2. JSPA*

            If the question were phrased as, “because of how the line works, we lose two full hours out of an 8 hour day, if people take two different lunch breaks” the first and best answer would still be, “first try to find an hour that works for everyone’s religions and medical needs.”

            And honestly, people get sick. People have emergencies. If your business is set up so that one person’s shift in schedule, even when known in advance, causes turmoil, maybe you need to cross-train people and have enough slack in the assembly line so that people can shift stations to keep the line moving; or have part-timers who can be called in; or (contract allowing), a manager who can do the line work if needed. It’s questionable planning if the line stops dead whenever you’re one person down.

      3. doreen*

        Some businesses/offices close down for an hour for lunch because the nature of their work means it works better that way. I’ve seen doctors/dentists in solo practices close down for lunch because it doesn’t make sense for some of the other staff to be at lunch while the doctor is working and I’ve seen signs saying ” no deliveries between 12-1″ on warehouses and stores because there won’t be enough people to unload the truck if half of the employees are at lunch due to staggered lunchtimes.

    2. Threeve*

      But there does have to be a line. If a new employee permanently added several additional unpaid hours to my week, I wouldn’t care why–religion, childcare, whatever–I would 100% have a real problem with it. That’s not discrimination, it’s me hating overtime.

      1. Reba*

        But that didn’t happen, fortunately! It was suggested, by someone not specified (grandboss?), the OP said no, that won’t work for me, and they didn’t have to! Ongoing resentment based on this successful negotiation makes no sense.

        1. Sal*

          Sounds like the OP had to push back on a company-wide rule and burn some capital. This could easily affect superiors’ conception of them and possibly affect them in their own career in the future (“OP gave us a hard time about our totally reasonable supervisors-on-site rule, what was that about, aren’t they a team player? Jeez.” — not something you want going through a C-suite person’s head at promotion time). That’s a legitimate concern.

          1. pancakes*

            If there’s no way to communicate to C-suites that OP’s reason for challenging that rule was to accommodate an employee’s religious practices, the problem is ineffective communication, not the fact that someone requested an accommodation for religious reasons.

            1. Sal*

              I wish humans worked like that, but my experience is that C-suite people (like other people as well!) often remember only gists, impressions, or associated emotional valences of experiences or people. OP1 is not unfairly and apparently mildly concerned that they will be thought of as rocking the boat or pushing back (that would be the “using capital”), and that their superiors will remember that, and not the eminently good reason for it. There is also the fact that if another concern is raised, OP1 will have to do it against a backdrop of just having given pushback (and again, not the eminently-reasonable reason they had to do so). Moreover, it’s also within the realm of possibility (of my experience, at least), that OP1 will bear the brunt of not simply staying onsite the extra hour (“a real team player who cares about the mission wouldn’t care about staying onsite for an hour extra a day”), which was apparently the company’s preferred way to handle the accommodation.

              If OP1 is female, I think this concern is even more well-taken.

              1. pancakes*

                Sure, but another person in the same scenario you describe might ask “how can I get the higher-ups to see that I am a team player” instead of “how can I get rid of this employee before they ask for something else.”

          2. Tinker*

            I’ve seen this expressed a few times on this thread and I’m having kind of a hard time wrapping my head around it.

            Like, I get that LW1 is having to do this thing, and on practical terms it has a cost to them personally and they need advice on how to manage the situation. It’s not necessarily as simple as “well you have to do the thing”.

            And yet in another sense, actually it is. Appropriately accommodating employees is an ethical obligation of a manager, and if that involves spending some personal capital, in a sense it’s like “but I would have to spend my personal capital to insist that the hazardous waste be disposed of legally / correct confined space procedures be followed / (not to get all pseudo-Godwin but) the launch be delayed on account of predicted weather too cold for the O-rings. Like, this is what personal capital is THERE for.

            1. Sal*

              I disagree, I think that’s work capital (I’m about to burn some work capital on a cause I really care about that my supervisor isn’t persuaded is my business); personal capital is “I’d like to still WFH one day per week until after Labor Day” (which I may also be about to ask for…). Unfortunately, I think they kind of draw from the same bank in terms of whether or not the big bosses see you as a “team player.”

              1. Tinker*

                Okay, but regardless of what you label the bucket of resources LW is having to draw from, my point is that it’s an expenditure that is arguably required to do their job correctly. An ethical engineer calls attention to technical problems even when it is not optimal for their career objectives — I’d suggest by analogy that an ethical manager does the same in the case of an equity problem. In terms of what is right to do, “my boss doesn’t think I’m a team player” is not something that ought to be factored into the decision.

                1. OP1*

                  Which is why I did it anyway. My point was that it was capital that I shouldn’t have had to spend in a “why are we even having this discussion, this should not be a thing” kind of way.

                  Did I do it? Of course! Did it mean that as a young manager my boss and upper management at my company looked at me in a less than favorable way for a while? Sure did! Did that kind of piss me off? Damn straight…. but at the organization not the employee.

      2. Anonymous Hippo*

        But the reasonable accommodation doesn’t come at the expense of the immediate supervisor, it comes at the expense of the company as a whole. So if your company’s solution is Threeve works more, they are the problem, not the accommodation.

      3. Observer*

        If a new employee permanently added several additional unpaid hours to my week, I wouldn’t care why–religion, childcare, whatever–I would 100% have a real problem with it

        Except that it is not the EMPLOYEE who is adding the time. It’s the employer who has ridiculous and unreasonable policies who is doing this. By framing this as something the employee caused, it shifts the blame to the wrong person.

  20. Schmitt*

    My former boss would deliver complicated news and then say “You don’t look happy about that”. I finally told him that this is the way my face looks when I am processing information and I did not welcome preliminary assumptions about what the result was.

    He tried it once more and I reflexively went full teacher “Ah-ah, what did we say about not commenting on my face?” on him. He switched to “You look thoughtful” which I could live with.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I have the same issue! I’m generally not upset about the news/request to do something, but I immediately start figuring out what needs to be done. Apparently my figuring-it-out face is a bit frowny. I have explained it to people I work with so they don’t jump to conclusions. I also never play poker.

  21. Sana*

    Of course it’s reasonable for the OP to ask the question on a public forum which they have and received a response. However being a public forum we are also allowed to comment. No one is asking the author of this blog to remove the question. Also why is it relevant that majority Muslim countries don’t put up Xmas decorations? In the ‘democratic free and civilised’ nation of Great Britain they don’t decorate the nations highstreets on Eid either. However at Tower Hamlets council, the only council in the UK with majority Muslim politicians they do decorate the council building with a 10ft Christmas tree and decorate the entire Borough with lights. When the pandemic is over I would recommend anyone with unconscious bias to actually travel to Muslim population countries such as Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia or Singapore and actually spend some time with Muslims. You may find we are not as evil as the media portrays us to be.

  22. Paul Pearson*

    LW#2 aaargh I sympathise. I’ve been close to sharp with my manager commenting on how tired/stressed/worn I appear to be or how I don’t have time to chat/have lunch/take a break levied like criticisms: if you’re not willing to do anything about my rapidly escalating work load, don’t pretend sympathy or concern about the result of it.

  23. Edwina*

    LW with the judgy boss on Zoom: your boss doesn’t seem to be taking into account that we ALL look terrible on Zoom. Most of us women have made some standard adjustments not to look quite so, er, “lacking in life force,” and I really suggest a couple of them to you:
    1. Make sure there’s natural light in the room you use. Open the Zoom camera and try out different lighting arrangements–all the lights on; only the overhead lights; all the window shades open; only some of the window shades open. Find the most flattering. Try bringing in some different floor lights. If your lighting is poor, invest in an inexpensive “ring camera,” easy to find on Amazon, which you can attach to your laptop or monitor.
    2. Make sure you’re looking UP at the camera. Set your laptop on a pile of books. It’s a much more flattering angle. Again, use the Zoom camera to find the best angle. I’m assuming you’re sitting on a chair with something neutral behind you, not on your bed or anything like that.
    3. Consider buying a separate webcam, rather than using the very poor webcam that comes with your laptop. Again, these are not expensive and easy to find on Amazon. You’ll look much better!
    4. Of course put on some basic makeup. I style my hair, and put on foundation, a little blush, setting powder, and lipstick (not too dark a shade). It makes a HUGE difference.

    Once you can get the basics in place, you’ll look 1000% better on camera, and generally make a more professional (and “energized”) impression. It’s really worth taking these few steps. I know it makes a huge difference. (My sister, also a high-level professional woman, does all this, and even organized slightly pink-tinted lighting in her home office, and she looks gorgeous!)

    1. Alice*

      You might not have meant it that way, but addressing this comment to “women” and suggesting to “of course” put on some makeup comes across as sexist to me. If your male colleague or employee was looking tired on camera, would you tell him to put on some lipstick and use pink light? If not, why are you holding women to different standards?

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, the tone of the original letter seems very gendered, and Edwina’s comment just super enforces that.

    2. Winterrose*

      Wow.

      OP wasn’t asking how to look “better” on a Zoom call, so this list seems out of place and unnecessary. It does not address the actual question or help the OP in terms of the issue they are asking about.

      And “Of course put on some basic makeup.”??? There is no “of course” – this is not something anyone should be required to do! (You can CHOOSE to do so if you are happy to, but it is absolutely not a requirement. That is utter gendered BS.)

      Looking “gorgeous” is not a workplace requirement for the vast majority of women (models, actresses etc excepted), and presenting it this way is gross.

    3. Sunglass*

      I do not own foundation, blush, setting powder, or lipstick (in any shade). Why should someone buy four separate products (possibly more, since presumably you need to try a few different ones to find what suits you) in order to counter this?

      Would you ask a tired male colleague to “of course” put on a little blush? Surely not. But “of course” women must buy products and paint their faces in order to look professional, because god forbid anyone have to look at you and think you look tired.

      1. Self Employed*

        And when Doctor Who commented about the Prime Minister “doesn’t she look tired?” it was an attempt to undermine her credibility, which (thanks to the awful British press) succeeded in rumors of unfitness for office and a vote of No Confidence.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Oooor we could pack up the sexist “part of wimmenfolks’ job is to look awesome all the time” nonsense. Because you’re not telling the dudes to buy equipment, rearrange their workspaces and spend time, effort and money on prettification. What even the hell. “Most of us” my right foot.

    5. londonedit*

      Yes, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with any of this. Women should not feel like they have to buy additional lighting, wear make-up, perform in a certain way or do anything else in order to be seen as ‘professional’ on screen. Men aren’t pressured into doing any of these things. I’m a ‘professional’ woman and beyond making sure the bits of my room that can be seen on camera are tidy, and making sure I’ve brushed my hair and am wearing something work-appropriate, there’s no way I’m going to waste my time and money on lighting and products to make me look ‘better’.

      If my boss is concerned that I’m appearing unwell or stressed, I’d rather they approached me and had a private chat, but if their opinion was based solely on the fact that I’m not wearing blusher on a Zoom call, then no, that’s ridiculous and they wouldn’t say the same thing to a man.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Falling into a habit of agreeing with you :)

        It’s just another variation of the ‘smile! You’ll look prettier’ malarkey that we get way more than men in the office do. I’m not spending my precious spoons doing hair and makeup and setting up lighting when that’s definitely not required of my male colleagues.

        Hair brushed, face clean, professional looking clothing is all I’m doing!

        1. NotSoAnon*

          This is one of the many reasons I’m so thankful my office does not have a culture of requiring video on zoom.

          I will do my best to look professional when going into the office but if I have a day where I don’t feel like wearing makeup it’s no one else’s business. My boss might jest with me that I look a little more tired than normal but feeling like it’s necessary to get made up for zoom calls seems really sexist/gender biases to me.

      2. Self Employed*

        I am a frequent flyer at local City Council and other committee meetings and probably most of my public officials are not looking their best on Zoom calls! Especially the men. Some have unflattering beard stubble, and one of the councilmembers in my city has looked exhausted since his wife had a baby over a year ago, with greyish skin and bags under his eyes. (He still keeps up with debate at meetings that are supposed to end at midnight but sometimes go over.) Before the baby and pandemic, he really did look like his campaign flyer photos in person.

    6. Workerbee*

      Wow, no. For one thing, that judgy boss knows full well the burden on the OP and doesn’t seem to care enough to do anything about it, yet has the time to comment on a supposed appearance that she is actively looking for.

      And for another…there are so many assumptions and preferences packed into your comment that I offer my own unsolicited advice to examine where they actually come from.

    7. onco fonco*

      Mate, no. This is not stuff that ‘us women’ all need to be thinking about. And there is no ‘of course’ about makeup.

    8. Shirley Keeldar*

      This would be very helpful advice if the OP was unhappy with her own appearance on video calls–but that’s not what she asked about. She’s suffering from an unbearable workload and has a boss commenting on her appearance rather than fixing her workload. That’s an entirely different problem, and adding tasks to the OP’s plate (put on makeup, fix your lighting) is not the way to solve it.

      1. Myrin*

        Exactly. Sexism and untrue generalisations in this comment notwithstanding, I don’t see how it’s in any way relevant to the question OP is asking.

      2. Self Employed*

        I have sensory issues with stuff on my face and stuff on my eyelashes, and the constant annoyance of wearing makeup for office dress codes in the 80s-90s actively interfered with my work performance besides the hassle of extra steps to get ready before getting stuck in Southern California traffic.

    9. SarahKay*

      As a woman, I’d like to exempt myself from your statement of “Most of us women have made some standard adjustments”. I most certainly have not made any adjustments, ‘standard’ or otherwise.
      Please reconsider your advice, because in it’s own way it’s just as judgy as OP#2’s boss is being.

    10. Qwerty*

      WTF???

      The LW did not write saying “poor me, I failed as a woman by not looking beautiful”. She wanted her boss to stop making sexist comments about her appearance. Do you realize that your response is essentially telling the LW that her role in life is to look pretty?? She’s overworked and your suggestions are “If you spend a bunch of money, you too can look pretty!”

      You also have a strange standard on what “basic makeup” consists of. That’s more makeup than I wear when I’m dressed up and looking fancy!

    11. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      “Most of us women have made some standard adjustments…” [citation needed]

      1. Generic Name*

        *snort* the only adjustment I make to for video calls is to adjust my camera angle so it’s not cutting off the top of my head. (I’m a woman)

        1. Elenna*

          The only adjustment I make is to turn off video :P (Also, the last time I routinely wore makeup was when I was playing with it in fifth grade. Then I decided it was way too much work.)

      2. RussianInTexas*

        I don’t ever have to get on Zoom or any video calls, so my adjustments were that I don’t wear makeup ANYMORE.
        *I actually like makeup. But I don’t need to. so I don’t.

    12. Generic Name*

      What if you just want to do your job with your unadorned face and not have your boss comment on your appearance? You know, just like men can?

    13. Willis*

      As a “high level professional woman” who works with plenty of other women via video, this comment is horrible and completely misses the point of the letter.

    14. WFH with Cat*

      Whaaaat? What? WHAT?

      I’m not usually completely pissy about comments (live and let live, live and learn) but your response to the OP is off-target and misogynistic. The OP did *not* ask for tips on how to look better on webcam. As very clearly stated, she is concerned that her manager is using personal comments to avoid the crucial issue that her job has changed in ways that have not been reflected in her title and salary. Next time you want to shower someone (a woman) with advice (unasked for) about how they (again, a woman) can improve their appearance, please stop, just stop.

    15. Just a Cog in the Machine*

      The makeup issue has already been commented on, so I’ll stick with: Why should anyone need to adjust their work location to look better on zoom? I mean, yeah, try to control the mess that can be seen behind you, but I’m working in the location in my house that makes it the easiest for me to work. I’m not moving to get more natural light in the room, which would require making my home less convenient to me for all the times I’m in it and NOT working. I’m not spending money to buy equipment solely to look good.

      The correct answer is: don’t comment on someone’s appearance. If you think someone is being overworked or is stressed, address THAT and what can be done to help them.

    16. Clisby*

      Why would you care how you look on camera? Unless, of course, you’re an actor/actress/model or the like? Is the purpose of the meeting to gaze at your lovely face, or to exchange information? If it’s the former, the meeting can be canceled. If it’s the latter, then just … exchange information.

      1. pancakes*

        A lot of people who aren’t actors or models care about how they look. The problem here isn’t that vanity is rare and incomprehensible; it’s that this commenter seems to think women are obliged to and are invariably interested in looking conventionally pretty for work.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          Thank you! There is a lot of middle ground between “all women must make extra effort to look good on camera” and “no one should care about how they look.” How about: we all spend as much time on how we look as we personally care to.

    17. NeverComments*

      WTF- this would be appropriate if the LW wrote in asking for tips on how to look “better” on zoom. But they did not. Gross

    18. Esmeralda*

      Where I sit, the natural light washes out my face a bit — at first I tried to fix that (hanging towels over the curtains, etc). Then I realized — no one can tell I look tired/peeved/bored!

      Winner winner…

    19. Nanani*

      Unless your job is literally to look good on camera (as in, because you’re in a movie), do zero of this. Women do not actually -need- to look pretty. It’s just one more unfair sexist expectation.
      Look how much money you’re suggesting the LW (and any women!) spend just because they are women. How does that not make you go WTF!

    20. Autistic AF*

      “You’d look so much better if you smiled!”

      Eff that, and eff the idea that I have to be Eleanor Rigby to be professional. We’re in a bloody pandemic!

    21. Observer*

      Of course put on some basic makeup.

      Why “of course”?

      I style my hair, and put on foundation, a little blush, setting powder, and lipstick (not too dark a shade).

      That’s great. But that’s a lot of work to require in service of keeping the boss from being rude. And this, by the way, goes well beyond “basic”.

      1. Edwina*

        Oh lord! I guess I should mention that I’m a high-level female screenwriter and these are the absolutely expected protocols for presenting a high-level pitch, i.e. to a top director, or to the President of the studio and a raft of lower-level executives. The studio is basically considering whether they’ll commission an expensive script, to potentially spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the movie. Absolutely you have to look and present as ultra-professional, if you want to sell your project. These are the same steps I take when taking the meetings in person, too (sans lighting!).

        The movie business is brutally sexist and will do anything NOT to hire women-. Female screenwriters make up about 5% of the screenwriting cohort, and as someone who’s been in the forefront of fighting for a place at the table since the ’80s, we women (all of us) need to be faultlessly professional. You have to look like someone at the top of their game.

        That’s just the reality of my business and I’m certainly not the only woman who takes these really basic steps (hair styling, a tiny bit of makeup, really, guys? you don’t do that for work at all?), as you can see from the myriad articles in the past year about how to look your best on Zoom. I’m certainly not the only person who takes care to make sure I’m centered and look my best on camera. and decently lit.

        But I see from the highly distressed comments that this is not accurate for other businesses, and I apologize for coming off like I’m misogynistic. On the contrary, I meant to be helpful, because this is exactly the advice we give to each other in this business. This is actually surprising to me, but if honestly this is the way it is in the larger work world, again, I apologize.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Takes a lot to admit a mistake and apologise, and I definitely think a lot higher of people who do that :)

        2. WFH with Cat*

          I’m seeing this late, so I hope you see my reply … I was one of the people who took your post amiss due to not understanding the context in which you were approaching the issue. It’s so helpful to understand where you’re coming from, so thank you for letting us know. And thank you for your original post which was really quite generous, now viewed in the right light!

  24. Bookworm*

    LW5: Assume that some combination may be asked for you. You may find that it’s only an emergency/case by case basis and maybe not. May be worth leaving it open and then asking during the interview?

    I’m sympathetic. My job did mention late nights and weekends but it was pretty rare. Now? It’s expected and scheduled. : [ So that’s always a possibility too. I do hope that’s not the case for you. Good luck!!!

  25. Sled dog mama*

    LW 5 I’ve applied for several jobs where the ad doesn’t mention nights, weekends or overtime and some that have explicitly stated no nights weekends or overtime (and been exempt) that still ask that question in their application. In my field there will always be the occasional late night or weekend but as a exempt position it’s just what’s needed to get my responsibilities completed without shutting everything down for everyone else.
    Your situation may be totally different but in my experience that question gets asked of every applicant even when not relevant to the position.

  26. WellRed*

    I guess I don’t understand the purpose of task management software. Do you do the work in the software/it’s all connected? or do you do the work and then input it into the software (another task)? maybe it depends on the nature of your job? Is there a purpose other than micromanaging?

    1. Mockingjay*

      I’ve used many different systems and they span the gamut. For software development, there are systems in which you assign tasks and the code and documents reside within the system – you “check out” items, work on them, then “check in” to upload; all pieces and data are cross-referenced and tied to a project schedule. Others – like my current job – are a simple mechanism to assign work – basically an electronic routing system for a document on server or SharePoint site.

      No matter the tool, what’s important is that everyone USES the system. On my former software projects, the program managers were adamant that everyone check for tasks daily and keep work and status current. (So sorry those projects ended – they were managed wonderfully and we accomplished stuff that bigger teams couldn’t because our tools were so efficient.) In my current job, the system is not user-friendly and no longer supports how big the program has gotten, but the Powers That Be won’t upgrade or replace it, because they’re the ones who dreamt it up 10 years ago when the program was miniscule. Hence, very few people use it and it provides little value.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m not the LW, but I’ve used things like Salesforce for task management. Checking that box triggers the next step or lets accounting know that it’s time to send the bill. It also helps with record-keeping and data points like length of time it typically takes for a task to be completed. In my current job, I’m able to check that a task was completed without having to bug someone for a status update.

    3. Anononon*

      Our task management software is our lifeblood. We handle high volume work that has a number of deadlines and timeframes, so we have over a hundred excel reports that show what is in each stage, what’s waiting for something to happen, etc. Completing and/or adding tasks gets the items from one report to another.

    4. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I was a little concerned about the OP’s comment above saying their boss thinks that checking a task as complete doesn’t do anything. Either they are wasting their time using the software, or the boss doesn’t know how to effectively use the software.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      When used effectively, task management software is fantastic. Rather than having people write status emails or document their work, you can just look in the tool’s dashboard for an update. We use Teams for admin project work, and you can add pages to the team site for a document library, contact info, chat, and other centralized resources specific to the project. We use an industry-customized tool for client work, and that has been amazing for creating standardized processes and training new team members on how we work in-house. If I’m on the phone with my boss, and they want to know if X is done, I can pop over to the project management tool and say, “Yes, Bob finished that on Monday.” It can also roll up into a project dashboard to show completion and help with timelines and serve as historical documentation of projects, which is helpful if you have to revisit them after a key player has left or memory has faded.

      That said, it’s just a tool, so if you’re dealing with a micromanager, it can be used to micromanage.

      1. anonyJiraAdmin*

        “If I’m on the phone with my boss, and they want to know if X is done, I can pop over to the project management tool and say, “Yes, Bob finished that on Monday.””

        Goodness, that sounds nice. At my job someone like you would give me a request to get all sorts of emails sent to your boss so they could “be in the loop” themselves and save you time looking up tickets. Meanwhile boss would never look at those alerts, instead ask ME for updates since “I know the system”, and it would ultimately be a waste of my time.

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      Having a list of assignments to complete and then noting whether they have been completed seems like… just regular management. I’m not sure what comes across as micromanaging about that.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      It really depends on the tasks and the software. I think it sounds more like a way to track that everyone is on task. Picture it like a shared todo list. When Linda gets done with tasks 1, 2, 3 she can click the completed button to show she’s done and able to get more tasks assigned. Or When Linda is finished with Task 1, she clicks complete, which moves the project to Edward so that he know he can start working on it.

      It sounds like LW is the last person before boss to work on the project. so in his eyes he sees that its completed but doesn’t see the need to let the others know by checking the software that it is done.

  27. Workerbee*

    OP#2, the advice is spot on. And please don’t think you have to invest any of your already overburdened time and energy (and money, and altering your preferences) to try to present a different appearance to a boss who seems highly invested in mouthing platitudes rather than actively working to help ease your burden. Even if you have Resting What Fresh Hell Is This Face, it’s such a controlling fallacy to expect people given the sh*t end of the stick to be radiant and life-forcey about it at the same time.

    1. In my shell*

      omg, you’ve done it! I’ve always felt like Resting Bitch Face wasn’t quite right and you’ve nailed it! It’s a RWFHISF that I have!!

  28. Just the Office Admin*

    Like many of the other commenters, I’ve surmised that letter writer’s employee is one of the worlds 1.8 billion Muslims. Despite representing 25% of the earths population, there’s very little understanding in the West about Islam and its practices. And there’s even less empathy and good will towards ordinary Muslims in the workplace, particularly from those who might hold negative stereotypes about the religion and its adherents

    Once nuance here that I’d encourage the letter writer to reflect on is why it feels to them like this employee is trying to get one over on them. I get the sense that they feel like there’s some type of bait and switch happening. I have to wonder if that has to do with a basic misunderstanding or negative view of the religion (whether it is or isn’t Islam). How might the letter writer might feel living in a country where their faith (practiced or lapsed) was not in the majority— they might feel the frustration of not being able to secure Christmas or Ash Wednesday off. That’s how Jews, Muslims, and basically all other non-Christian observant people feel in the West! I’ve had friends who were unable to sit shiva (the week of communal mourning set aside in Judaism) for loved ones because HR didn’t recognize it as a religious accommodation.

    At the end of the day, religious practice is protected in the workplace to avoid scenarios just like this— a manager who has unilaterally decided that someone else’s faith practice is bordering on unreasonable. ER doctors are able to make time for prayer between saving lives, it doesn’t sound like that’s the work being done in this office. Probably your employee is already making lots of concessions in order to better ‘fit’ with corporate life, and it’s probably a bit demoralizing.

    The Friday lunchtime off is called Jumah— it’s extremely difficult to get to and from work to mosque, to prepare yourself and pray, in just an hour (imagine trying to do Christmas Eve mass every single week!). The month of ‘decrease productivity’ is called Ramadan, it’s a holy and joyful month to do good acts and reflect on the way ones faith is practiced in daily life. We’re actually about halfway through Ramadan now—- if you aren’t familiar with the celebration I encourage everyone to go learn a little more! Islam has been demonized in the West but it’s basic message is “do good and be kind, even and especially to strangers”.

    Minimum you can give a smile to your Muslim friend or coworker by saying “Ramadan mubarak” (rah-ma-daan moo-bahh-rock) !

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      It sounds like there was a bait and switch though…the employee accepted and committed to the standard schedule, and even followed it for a while. It was only after a stretch of time working that schedule that he requested the accommodation of a permanently different schedule. It’s not malicious, but it absolutely is a bait and switch.

      1. NeverComments*

        No. It is not a bait and switch. People have the right to request an accommodation at any point. I wouldn’t feel the need to flag a needed accommodation (especially one so common in many places such as the one described in the letter) at the offer stage either.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes. There’s also no indication in the letter that the accommodation was requested on a permanent basis. To the contrary, it seems to be Ramadan-related.

          1. Carlie*

            And even if so, they have the right to decide to become more religiously adherent than they were when they started the job, if that is the situation. People change.

      2. Anonymous Hippo*

        Yeah, I disagree. They can ask for accommodation when they need it, don’t have to do it ahead of time. A heads up for prep time would be nice, but you also can’t expect an employee to necessarily understand the intricacies of the schedule/etc. And frankly, I wouldn’t put it past an employer not to hire someone over this, illegal or not.

        1. Loredena*

          The bit I noticed is that the Friday lunchtime accommodation is needed in large measure because the entire company takes a specific lunch hour. I doubt that came up in interviews so of course the employee didn’t request the accommodation immediately. They then might have delayed asking in the hopes of working around it.

          1. Self Employed*

            LW1 said in comments that they inform the candidates that there is a “standard lunch hour” and the times and confirm that the candidates can live with that.

            Maybe all they mean by it is “don’t expect to be able to extend your lunch hour to attend birthday luncheons” but it is no stretch of the imagination that they are unhappy if people with religious obligations don’t take a hint and drop out of consideration. (Presumably if someone had a regular medical appointment that couldn’t be scheduled outside work hours they would be similarly unhappy about that.) I would be interested to know what the EEOC would think about this process because it does seem to be encouraging people who need accommodations to avoid working here. The way the company has decided to make life difficult for LW1 for accommodating her employee’s religious observances seems consistent with that hypothesis.

      3. boo bot*

        The “bait and switch” idea only makes sense if we assume that the OP was entitled to a “standard” employee of some kind, and this employee, because of their religious practices, is “non-standard.”

        To me that feels like a pretty grim, calculating way to think about people, and it’s not how the law works. This person asked for accommodations either as the need arose, or as they felt comfortable asking; both are fine.

      4. LabTechNoMore*

        To that end, it’s also worth mentioning that Ramadan comes at a different time every year. For me personally, it often “sneaks up” on me so a few weeks beforehand I wouldn’t be cognizant of the fact that I’ll be fasting in two weeks time.

  29. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: where’s the line is something that’s asked a lot where I work because I’m frequently trying to juggle my disability accommodations with others, and one person’s time off requests against another’s (one for religion, one for childcare? That was a fun one – btw I granted both times off and covered the work myself)

    The limit I personally set is that when something is just the level of ‘minor annoyance’ (like juggling leave schedules) I just get on with it.

    If someone’s productivity drops during a certain time period, but there’s a reason (fasting, SAD, severe menstrual pain in my case) then I may note it mentally but otherwise just reshuffle workloads for a short interim.

    Where the ‘no way’ limit is for me is when the job literally can’t get done with the accommodation. Like if someone says they can’t work near unmarried women/men or they can’t ever ‘accept’ a transgender employee or demands we ban all caffeine from the office or all meat products. Basically once someone tries to change the job itself or the company to fit their own standards.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Banning all caffeinated meats? What is this world coming to!?

      In all seriousness, Keymaster of Gozer, your modus operandi sounds very reasonable.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My mentor and ex-boss from way back said IT Management was like trying to herd cats. He wasn’t wrong. I’ve got members of staff with different religions, different child situations, different health issues, a few that can’t look you in the eyes or tolerate bright lights (I am one).

        The one who wanted all caffeine and meat banned was a long time ago and nearly got fired for a brilliant idea of replacing all tea with decaff without telling anyone. An idea which nearly landed a member of staff in the hospital.

        Basically, if it’s not harming other people, forcing them to live a certain way or promoting hate speech then I’m usually ok.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Nearly got fired? Tampering with food is a huge issue, I know it’s “just” the company-provided tea but I’d still be very concerned about working with someone who does things like that. What if their next plan was to replace peoples’ lunch meats with vegan substitutes?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I have a severe allergy to decaff, she could have killed me. But…the company didn’t believe anyone could have my specific allergy, thus her actions weren’t ‘dangerous’.

            Didn’t stay long at that firm.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Well, that’s horrifying! (And now I know that decaff allergies exist, which is news to me. So she really should’ve been fired on the spot.)

  30. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Letter 1…

    For some reason, this reminds me of the employer who “accommodated” an employee’s mental health issue by requiring the OP to work every weekend, forfeit her PTO, and cancel planned vacations. Please don’t allow that to happen to you.

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      That’s a pretty baseless extrapolation from LW’s employee asking to move one’s lunch to a different time one day a week.

  31. Dea*

    When I worked in the Middle East during Ramadan many people worked different hours. They started early and left early afternoon. More work was done that way and it helped with accommodation. It was also widely done.

  32. Sillygoo*

    Oh boy #1. Ya know. I was going to write to AskaManager the other day because I had an experience that I wanted to make sure I handled correctly. My employee came to me recently and asked if they could start their work day later than usual and leave later. It was much later than usual, and I said I would be ok with it but our big boss might prefer “punctuality”. The employee backtracked and said they could probably work it out but wanted to ask.

    Only THEN I realized, it’s Ramadan. My employee is getting up at the crack of dawn (literally) to eat, then falling back asleep, then coming to work, going home, making iftar for elderly parents and children, rinse repeat. I emailed HR right away and said “my employee needs some additional accommodations, I’m happy to accommodate flexible work schedule and offer time and space for prayer.” My boss and HR were happy, and my employee is, of course, happy.

    It’s been a terrible year, and fasting at the tail end of all this stress, getting vaccinated in the middle of Ramadan, etc. And I felt terribly insensitive for not initially realizing what my employee is going through OR what they are observing.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Give yourself a break Sillygoo. You’re human. You’re stressed too. No one thinks perfectly all the time. But the penny dropped eventually and you took care of it. That’s all that can be asked of you.

    2. Llellayena*

      Your employee is lucky you were able to immediately recognize WHY they were asking for accommodations. Not everyone is that observant (and I do NOT mean insensitive, it just doesn’t occur to everyone to match request with cause like that without it being explicitly pointed out). I think making a request like that should be accompanied by enough of an explanation to allow a manager to see a request as falling under “accommodation” rather than “just cause I want to.” “Can I shift my hours later” may not normally be permitted because the employee needs to have overlap with others in the office for meetings/collaboration, but if you say “my current fasting/religious/medical/whatever schedule makes it harder to focus in the early morning and I’ll be more productive if I can keep a later schedule until *date*” it’s much easier to understand the need for accommodation AND recognize that it’s temporary. More info also allows for better collaboration on what accommodations can work (“we need you for a 9am meeting, but you can work from home, take a break and finish out the day later”) and what adjustments need to be made by others (“Will the info for Daily Report X still be available by 10am or will we need to ask Jack to move completion of the report to later in the day?).

    3. Autistic AF*

      Everyone has biases – you examined yours and course corrected accordingly. Next time will be better!

  33. Wurd Nerd*

    For the manager who refuses to mark assignments complete – is there the ability to make comments on the assignment? If so, putting “Completed xx/xx/20xx” and your initials might be wise. Then you have time-stamped evidence of your work.

  34. Maltypass*

    She said it looked like your life force was being drained?! OP time to crack out the Halloween decorations – a couple of ghoul decals in the background, end a call early to deal with an exorcism, ride it as far as you can

    1. EmKay*

      Vampire fangs. Wear them only for one on one zoom calls with the person that made that comment. Act confused when she brings it up.

      (lol)

  35. AthenaC*

    I know everyone’s beating up on #1, but from my reading, it sounds like the issue is the lack of communication ahead of time. What if you had an employee that suddenly requested schedule changes or suddenly had a decrease in productivity right when you had urgent deadlines (for non-religious reasons) in a manner that caused more work / stress for you? And what if you found out that this employee’s sudden needs were in fact completely predictable and known to this employee ahead of time?

    That’s the core issue.

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to an employee who may be a member of a religious and / or ethnic minority who may have been treated poorly when they asked for accomodation in the past, but how many times has Alison (and the commentariat collectively) been clear that past toxic environments are not an excuse for poor behavior going forward?

    I think OP#1 should chat with their employee around the communication issue – not even bringing up religion if they can help it. Messaging should be “As soon as you know you are not available for a scheduled meeting, I need to know so we can reschedule. If you know there will be a period of time that you won’t be at your best, let me know ahead of time so we can plan the workload allocation appropriately.” Or something like that.

    1. twocents*

      Yeah, I think LW wrote during a time period when she was really frustrated — maybe even right after she had to burn through capital to not work unpaid OT — but that doesn’t make her nefarious anymore than the employee is being nefarious. It’s clearly a new situation to LW that wasn’t handled great all around and left her with some questions.

    2. FisherCat*

      +1 on this. And instead of a meeting to discuss what the employee needed, they sorta creeped it, every once in a while a new thing which is also frustrating.

      Most of all, I see a lot of people on here losing their sht about how obviously islamophobic LW is but I don’t read that… LW seems frustrated that someone asked for the religious accommodation of “why don’t you just handle parts of my job for me, without pay, for the foreseeable future?” which I would get a little testy about too. Especially if I had to use my own capital to point out how obviously unfair that was.

      1. Vimes*

        But the employee did not in fact ask for that. That solution was imposed by OP’s bosses. OP being pissed at their bosses for their super not awesome solution is very reasonable. Being pissed at the employee for daring to exercise their religion is not.

    3. Tinuviel*

      I think part of the reason everyone is being to harsh on OP#1 is that they assume moving a lunch break is no big deal, so anyone who hesitates at doing even that much is a colossal jerk. But if it actually was inconvenient but doable, which is what OP says it was, and if there was an additional inconvenience, and if the employee was having reduced productivity, and if OP was being asked to stay late to make up the difference, that sounds like a great time to start thinking about the boundaries of religious accommodation. And that’s what the letter is describing! OP didn’t refuse to accommodate anything. They just asked what the limits are.

      It’s also reasonable, IMO, to start being mildly annoyed when one is asked to stay late.

    4. meyer lemon*

      I don’t see any indication that the employee has acted badly at all. There’s no requirement for employees to disclose their need for religious accommodations prior to being hired, and nor should there be. I also don’t see why it matters whether the accommodation requests come all at once or not–maybe the employee didn’t know what they would need until they’d been on the job a while. All of these requests should just be treated as a matter of course in a healthy, functioning company.

      It sounds like this company puts up a lot of unnecessary barriers to making these requests easy to accommodate, and that’s where the LW should focus their annoyance, not on this employee who’s just trying to settle in to a new job.

      1. meyer lemon*

        And for what it’s worth, dealing with a previous toxic workplace isn’t the same thing as dealing with systemic discrimination. It’s fair to assume that your new workplace will probably not be toxic in the same way that your old one was. With discrimination it’s unfortunately more realistic to expect that it could come up anywhere.

        1. Autistic AF*

          100%. I mentioned this above – testing the waters is common with minorities, like someone being “a friend of Dorothy” as coded language for sexual minority. It would be easier if this were brought up sooner, certainly, but it’s a risk to OP’s employee’s safety, and they are absolutely allowed to prioritize that.

      2. Arvolin*

        Yes – but can we agree that LW1 can find the continual additional accommodations annoying, without suggesting the employee did anything wrong? There’s a lot of things I have a perfect right to do that would annoy others, sometimes more severely.

  36. Qwerty*

    OP4 – Ask if they can add another column or state to the task tracker! Most task systems should be able to do this (works in Jira, Azure DevOps, Trello, Asana – that’s all I’ve used).

    I try to set up my tracking systems so each state/column relates to a different role, that way it is easy to tell where the bottleneck is or who is currently accountable for the task. So for software, I use something like

    (1) ToDo/Not Started [Anyone can pick it up]
    (2) In Progress/In Development [You are responsible for it now]
    (3) Code Review [You and your team members need to be talking]
    (4) Testing [QA team has it]
    (5) Awaiting Acceptance / PO Acceptance [Your manager has it]
    (6) Done

    Your use case probably can skip 3&4, but the general idea should apply and show when you’ve done your part. Having the visual for your manager to see that he’s got a lot of tasks piled up waiting for him may also prompt him to actually close them.

    1. anonyJiraAdmin*

      If someone like Jane or a time tracking dashboard is only recording when something hits Done, a new column wouldn’t work for someone that doesn’t look at a board at all (most managers I’ve worked with.)

  37. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

    Ah, task management software. It’s an issue at my company because if things aren’t marked complete then the dependencies don’t get done, which then becomes a bottleneck. If anyone is in charge of the system, like a project manager, it’s probably best to escalate the issue to them. If no one is in charge of the project management software then that’s probably a bigger issue, really.

  38. James*

    #2: You know your boss better than me, so this may or may not be useful, but: One thing I tell people in my safety orientations is that you are the absolute worst person at determining your status. It’s almost always going to be someone else that says “Hey, are you all right?” My rule of thumb is, if someone says it to me twice I take it seriously. Most people in my experience try to power through, and that’s when people get hurt or killed on jobsites.

    My recommendation is to schedule a one-on-one chat with your boss. Before the meeting take a hard look at your workload and see if it is, in fact, too much. Then look at what you can delegate and who you can delegate to. That way you’re prepared to offer a solution if the work really is too much.

    Don’t get too hung up on the comment about seeing your life-force draining. The question is whether your boss is seeing something you’re not, or if she’s simply parroting typical sexist nonsense.

    1. Cat Tree*

      LW2 already knows she’s swamped and her boss knows it. That was never the question. The problem is that her boss expects her to look pretty and energetic anyway.

      It’s also not LW2’s responsibility to delegate to her peers (who are also likely swamped due to the decreased workforce). She can make suggestions to her boss, but ultimately it’s her boss’s job to delegate and manage workloads. Instead, her boss is ignoring the problem. In the most generous light, the boss thinks she’s making sympathetic comments and that sympathy will be enough to make up for the increased workload. At worst, the boss is passive-aggressively hinting at LW2 to hide the problem better so she doesn’t have to think about it.

      And why does someone always suggest that we bend over backwards to rule out all possible motivations before we can recognize sexism? It’s possible for something to be both sexism and something else at the same time. Even if this was some alternative universe where LW2 is really just unaware of her own workload and the whole thing could be resolved by introspection and delegation, that identical situation with a man would not be brought up by telling him that he looks drained of his life force. It can be two things, and sexism is almost certainly one of them here.

      1. James*

        “… but ultimately it’s her boss’s job to delegate and manage workloads.”

        Is it, though? Not all organizations work that way. Matrix management, for example, places a great deal of the burden of managing workload on the individual employee. It’s not as popular now as it was–which is good, it’s a horrible system based on very flawed premises about human nature–but some of the ideas have stuck around. My manager has very little influence over my workload, for example, and about half of her influence comes as someone working under me on projects (we all wear multiple hats). If I came to her with problems with workload her first question would be “What have you done to try to resolve this issue?” Gender is irrelevant here; male managers have done the same thing to me, my current manager happens to be a woman.

        Further, the world isn’t neatly divided into “managers” and “workers”. I’m a manager, but I answer to….three managers? Something like that; one problem with matrix management is that it makes figuring out who your supervisor is extremely difficult. Anyway, I fit both bins. As a manager, managing my workload is part of my job; if I’m burned out it’s a sign I need to work on that part of it. Work load is even less clearly divided. How many letters have we read about scope creep in this blog? Some managers expect their workers to manage their own workloads, delegating work if need be. It’s not a great management style, but it is one–see “Manager Tools”, which argues that managers should put more on a worker’s plate than they can reasonably handle, for example. (Before you criticize, please listen to their reasoning–I disagree with it, but it’s not as horrible as you’re likely assuming.)

        More damning, though, is the fact that clearly the boss isn’t managing workload effectively. Expecting the boss to step up at this point is going to be a lesson in futility. It’s better to come up with a plan on your own. And bear in mind, I never said that the LW should just hand out work without considering the other person; that’s just stupid. What I’m recommending is having a few conversations, seeing what people can take on. In my experience, at least, usually when some people are overwhelmed others are struggling to find enough work (again, matrix management sucks). There’s a few of us that routinely touch base to resolve such issues in my company. And there may be people the LW can pull in to help that they don’t realize can help. Your network isn’t you plus the people you know; there’s at least one more shell (people that know the people you know), if not two, beyond that that you can reach out to.

        I’ve found that problems are much easier to resolve if you come to the discussion with a potential solution. Often–usually–the boss doesn’t take that solution, but it serves as the basis to discuss how to resolve the issue. Workload issues are no different. If you have a plan it shows that you’re not just bellyaching, it’s a serious problem that you’ve given serious consideration to. And it’s easier to hammer a bad plan into a workable one than to build a workable plan from scratch.

        “… that identical situation with a man would not be brought up by telling him that he looks drained of his life force.”

        Not true. I mean, I was never told I looked drained of my life force, but there have been a few times when someone has commented that I looked dead–not as in “dead tired” but as in “freshly dug-up corps” (his words). In those times I knew I was pushing myself too hard, but I didn’t have a clear view of just how hard I was pushing myself or how much of a tole it was taking. It took someone else, someone outside the group in fact, to point out just how bad things had gotten. That’s why I bothered to comment–I’ve been in a similar situation, and I’ve figured out ways to deal with it.

        I’ll grant that there’s almost certainly an element of sexism involved here. But it’s also useful to use this as a prompt for introspection, because at least in my experience we are the worst people to judge how much we are capable of. One reason burnout is a thing is that we think we’re handling things fine right up to the point where we fall off the edge. If someone’s commented on it a few times, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re really as okay as you think you are.

        Further, this provides ammo for the conversation about workload. Fatigue and distraction are trigger states, after all, which means that you can approach this from a “Here’s what could happen and how it could affect the company” perspective. Ideally sure managers should worry about their employees as people. The reality is that they don’t, however, and that their first loyalty is to the company, not their team. They’re far more likely to listen to “I have noticed an uptick in errors due to the overwhelming workload, and while we’ve caught them so far it’s only a matter of time before one slips by us and causes problems” than “I’m really tired and overwhelmed”. The first has dollars associated with it; the second does not.

        The sexism is a problem, yes. However, it’s a problem that can be dealt with after the overwhelming workload is. That’s not to say it’s less important–it likely is more so–but overwhelming workloads are a more immediate threat. Every fatality on projects I’ve worked on has been due to overwhelming workload, so I tend to take it very seriously.

        1. Sal*

          The difference may be that women get told they look like corpses (by kind, well-meaning people) on days when they simply don’t have time to put on undereye concealer, and not because they are actually any more tired than usual. That’s a big difference.

        2. JSPA*

          Yep. In my early career, back when I ran (fast and hard) on a rich mix of anxiety, wit, free-association and social awkwardness, “JSPA, you look like hell, go home” got me home before the fever hit 101. (Several times, actually.)

      2. JSPA*

        That’s putting a lot of motivations in the boss’s head that may or may not be there.

        “You look burnt out” and, “let me know if this is getting past what you can handle without burning out” are stylistically different, but functionally,

        a) if your boss is a good human being, they both mean, “I see you, I care about your stress levels, and I want to hear if it’s too much.”

        b) if your boss is a backbiting snake, they both mean, “I am gloating and I am negging you.”

        Yes, people carry different baggage about whether they’re “allowed” to look tired / overworked / burnt out. But those differential expectation are toxic. They’re not something we should cater to. They’re also not the boss’s fault.

        Maybe OP has some reason to think the boss is a jerk; I’m not going to second guess that! Maybe (given the number of layoffs) the company is circling the drain (or the predators are circling the company), and any sign of weakness gets you pushed out and down. I’m not going to second guess that, either.

        But I’m a bit flummoxed that Alison thinks it is unlikely that the boss will even try to come through with additional pay, a title bump or support or time off, if OP says, “well, yes, I’m overworked, underpaid, and short about two promotions to be doing more than two people’s jobs.”

        If OP feels that she has to pretend to be superwoman to hold the job, and wants the boss on board with that, OP can say, “At this point, unless you know there’s a chance of hiring someone to take on part of this burden–which is obviously necessary, but I’m assuming not possible–can you and I both just pretend that I’m superwoman, and leave out the comments about looking worn out or low on life force?”

        In any other circumstance, this is an invitation to say, “If the other people were let go with the idea that their jobs could reasonably be added to my workload, long-term, I hope we both know that’s impossible. I’d welcome a substantive chance to discuss how to improve the situation, and whether there’s a realistic chance of that happening.”

        It seems logically obvious to me that they will happily keep piling work on you as long as you continue to say that the workload is manageable. If you want the workload to drop, you have to draw some lines.

  39. Teaching For Two*

    LW 3, as someone who went from nonprofit to education, I really appreciate this structured pay schedule. It’s clear, it’s the same for everyone, and there is NOTHING you can do about it. Even if there is a raise, EVERYONE gets a raise because it’s fair across the board.

    NPs like to be all secretive about their pay, and that’s not cute.

    1. Moose-watcher*

      As nonprofits go I tend to think 1/10 employees actually get paid a fair living wage. I worry that a system like this will take those numbers from (for arguments sake) 1/10 to 1/50. This seems like a way to undercut salaries to me. For example: two people with “management experience” one person who managed a team of 50 and another who managed a team of 3, do not deserve the same level of added compensation for having management experience. But they would both be given say an additional, say, 5,000 in salary in this system. My instinct is that this almost certainly serves to keep salaries low, not the other way around, no matter what the intension of the program is. Sorry Alison, as an economist I can’t agree with you on this one. I’ve seen way too many well meaning programs like this crash and burn to trust that it’s actually being implemented fairly.

      1. LW 3*

        There were additional details in some of the requirements that I didn’t include in my letter which I think at least partially address the concerns you have about the difference between managing a team of 3 vs. a team of 50. It is impossible to write requirements like this to be able to 100% capture the value of various experiences, but it appears that they did try to put some nuance in there for what they thought was important. This is for a job that is well above a living wage, and from perusing their other available jobs, even front-line jobs are being advertised at above a living wage for the area. I would be interested in hearing more on why you think this keeps salaries low?

    2. LW 3*

      I have also worked at a non-profit that liked to be secretive about pay – it was so infuriating. This organization with the pay matrix that I wrote in about is actually also a non-profit, just one that seems to be going about the pay thing a little bit differently. I will say that this appears to be only for starting pay – I don’t think the same matrix is used for on-going raises. But I am interested to see how they do handle on-going raises.

  40. StressedButOkay*

    LW1, someone might not ask for an accommodation for something like fasting ahead of time because they might not know they’re going to be fasting yet. Religions who have fasting as part of a major holiday have exemptions if someone can’t do it (if you’re pregnant, sick, etc). My friends who celebrate Ramadan have not participated in the fasting when they were pregnant, so they wouldn’t have brought it up that year but would the next year.

    That’s just one of many, many reasons someone might not bring it up immediately.

  41. NotThatLucinda*

    OP 1, I’d really advise you to examine your reaction regarding these (very reasonable) accommodations. While you say you are happy to accommodate (and it does sound like you are trying to), it also sounds like you are trying to determine just how soon you can get away with not accommodating this employee’s religion. Your example of having to move a meeting makes me worry that you may have a skewed sense what is/is not reasonable.

    My apologies I am misinterpreting

      1. OP1*

        I think you are misinterpreting a bit. I’ve commented some above so I won’t go into it all here, but I would like to point out that the example I gave wasn’t just moving a meeting, but moving a difficult meeting. I realize I didn’t specify, but I was thinking of something with like 3 countries and 15 people on that had been scheduled at that time for years (which was a thing in my office).

  42. CmdrShepard4ever*

    I almost never take lunch at the same time ever day. I will generally take it around 1pm most times, but that can mean I start my hour lunch any time between 12:30 pm to 1:30. If I have something going on I have taken lunch as early at 11 am or as late as 3 pm. Most times I don’t let my manager know when I am taking lunch.

    Granted my role is one that does not require strict coverage. I have also worked in coverage roles that required one person to take lunch at noon, and the other person to take lunch at 1pm.

    I am not clear based on what OP said if the company just happens to have arbitrarily set lunch time for the whole company at one time, or if there is an actual reason for everyone to take lunch at the same time. But most companies I have seen have lunch time generally at noon or one.

    1. OP1*

      Yeah, we had a set time where the entire company takes lunch. It partially because of the type of business we were in, but also so that we could basically block off 1 hour where no one could schedule meetings.

    2. Working Hypothesis*

      OP1, so how much of a real hardship — not nuisance; *hardship* — is it to have one extra hour per week on which you can’t schedule meetings that absolutely much include that particular employee? If they had a medical issue and needed a weekly doctor appointment in order to be functional, you’d accommodate it without thinking about it (at least I certainly hope you would!!!). I’m just really failing to see why you’re treating this whole thing as even a fairly minor concern. It’s less than minor, it’s trivial.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        While I agree the that the weekly schedule issue in this situation is not a big deal/undue hardship, based on updates from OP it seems that their business is very meeting heavy and they deal with international participants. So it deems seem to be a bit more of a burden than in other work places

        I have had to schedule meetings in the past with people across time zones, and just between pacific, central, and eastern time zones, it is a pain to schedule at a convenient time for everyone. I have found there are only a handful of hours to schedule meetings with out cutting into an early meeting, a late meeting, or during usual lunch time (12pm to 2pm) for one or more people. 9am pst is 11am cst, and already noon est; a 2pm pst is 4pm cst, and 5pm est. If you throw in international time zones into the mix it gets even harder.

        1. Allonge*

          Hey, this sounds familiar (we are also meeting heavy, to say the least). Commiserations.

          But for me it works out the other way around: because we are meeting heavy, scheduling is a pain either way. There are always timeslots that would work out if that one person did not have a meeting already. It’s just part of the game.

          I am not saying you are wrong about it, I totally see how it can look that way!

      2. OP1*

        I think you’ll find that I never claimed that was a hardship. I said it was “somewhat inconvenient” which it was. It would also have been somewhat inconvenient if it was for a medical appointment, but just like I did for this employee I would have accommodated without putting it on them.

    3. Observer*

      @OP1, the idea that accommodating this schedule request even comes CLOSE to being “too much” makes it pretty clear that you really, really need to rethink what “reasonable” accommodation is. Also what “inconvenient” means.

      I mean, all you needed to do was to allow this person to block out a standing meeting on their calendar. Considering that an imposition or a noticeable inconvenience just seems hyper-rigid.

      1. Sal*

        I don’t think that one thing is coming close to being too much for OP1; my read was that OP1 was asking about how much, cumulatively, can be expected before it starts to approach being an undue hardship. YMMV.

        1. OP1*

          Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it. I’m not saying that this employee reached critical mass at all! But it was starting to get to the point where other coworkers were having to take on more to allow for the accommodations for this employee, and I wasn’t able to give the employee certain tasks because of the accommodations they asked for. It was workable, but difficult, and I was wondering at what point it goes from difficult to undue hardship

        2. Observer*

          I don’t think that one thing is coming close to being too much for OP1; my read was that OP1 was asking about how much, cumulatively, can be expected before it starts to approach being an undue hardship.

          Even in that context, nothing the OP describes comes to that point. What does seem miserable is the company’s handling of the situation.

  43. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – while your employee may have somewhat lower productivity during his/her religious fasting period, you might want to consider that this person may provide considerable productivity at other times of the year, when other people’s religious holidays are beings celebrated, and those other employees’ productivity is lower.

    I don’t see the accommodations you’ve mentioned as unduly burdensome, and I wouldn’t look at refusing to work extra hours as expending personal capital – it shouldn’t be that. It should be that this is the employer’s obligation to accommodate an employee’s religion. I’d be spinning this that you have saved the employer from being discriminatory.

  44. Qwerty*

    OP1 – Can you redirect some of your frustration towards your company? I suspect the heart of your frustration is that your company tried to get you to work unpaid overtime as a way of accommodating your employee. The sourness of that fight is probably coloring your overall view towards this employee. However that’s on your company! The religion you describe is not uncommon in the US (if that’s where you are), so a company with a decent D&I policy would have already had some thoughts on what to do in this situation, or at the very least not tried to put the burden on you.

    Hopefully with that incident set aside, everything else will seem much more minor to you. Think of all the accommodations that you generally have made during the pandemic for people with kids, or illness, or other hardships caused by the strange year. If you mind starts to travel in the “well, nobody helped me!” direction – counteract it by thinking about how helpful it would have been if your company had been more flexible! Try to let go of the fasting-related productivity this year (unless there is a legit safety concern) – you are probably hyperfocused on it right now due to all the other stuff. Next year you might find that it all evens out. Many people go through spurts of increased vs decreased productivity. One advantage of a more religiously diverse workplace is that it spreads out when holidays are celebrated and productivity is lowered – this employee might be your highest performer in December when all the Christians have mentally checked out due to Christmas.

    1. OP1*

      For the most part my frustration was not directed at my employee. It was largely at my company. When I said I felt like I shouldn’t have had to burn capital I meant “this shouldn’t be a question and the it’s wild that the employees accommodations are coming to me personally to take care of, why on earth is this even a suggestion/conversation we’re having”

      My frustration with my employee was down to notice and time frame.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I think Allison has handled the nuts and bolts of what constitutes “reasonable” in this context, but I just wanted to say–it’s totally reasonable that you’re annoyed at your company! They are being super rigid in ways that don’t allow you to manage the way you want to (and frankly, ought to be able to) in making these accommodations without falling on your sword.

  45. Analyst Editor*

    Sooo what happens when you have someone who’s better and it’s not quantifiable by “produced twenty more widgets per hour”? Like someone is smarter, has more depth in the subject, greater initiative, generally better in a way that’s hard t measure with coarse metrics?
    In a few years when the only assessments are paper credentials or approved quantitative metrics, we will be complaining about people being treated like automatons and not as human beings, and credentialism.

    1. MissBliss*

      I find it hard to imagine that someone who is “smarter”, has a deeper knowledge base, takes initiative more often, and is overall generally better, would have difficulty representing that. It could be qualitative translated into quantitative. I could have a qualitative description of having worked on A, B, C, and D, and my boss can read that and go “4 substantial projects.” And then Jane could have a qualitative description of having worked on E, F, and Z, and her boss can see that was “3 substantial projects.”

      At least from where I stand, people already complain about credentialism. Being able to tie it to non-credential metrics like the ones I suggested would be a huge improvement, IMO.

      1. Arvolin*

        Measuring productivity of software developers has been a source of major arguments for decades. Not only do all the quantitative measures fail to capture a lot, they tend to be gameable – and software developers are expert at making formal systems do what they want. Measuring by number of substantial projects fails, because projects are of different sizes and difficulties, and the size and difficulty are not always apparent until someone’s well into the project, and it can then be really difficult to tell whether it’s the person or the project.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I agree with you that not everything can be 100% quantified, but it can usually be measured in some way. Being smarter means nothing if you don’t use it/apply it to the job. Many jobs may not have a measurable output of 4o widgets per hour, but the work output and quality can be measured drafted reports need minimal revisions, has a good rapport with clients, is able to handle problem clients well and solve their problems. Making 20 more widgets an hour means nothing if half of all widgets fail QC etc.

    3. Allonge*

      I suppose if the salary offered by this system does not fit their needs and expectations, they can go to one of the thousands of companies where they will negotiate their salary personally, and have whatever positives that will bring. Just like any other person that gets a salary offer that does not work for them.

      If anything, they gain time as they can calculate their starting salary before even applying.

  46. katz*

    I really love the solution at #3. Besides expected salary, it’s clear which job “requirements” are actually required, and which are nice to have. Presumably, it also provides a clear path to higher salary as you achieve certifications, etc.

    Just this week, I saw a job listing for an “internship” that was also noted as “mid-senior level.” (Thanks, LinkedIn!) I imagine this matrix would eliminate that sort of confusion as well.

    I would also be very excited to work for a company with this level of transparency – hoping that it translates to other areas of management as well.

  47. onco fonco*

    Every time I scroll quickly past this post I read ‘fart-based matrix’ instead of ‘fact-based matrix’.

  48. Esmeralda*

    Where I sit, the natural light washes out my face a bit — at first I tried to fix that (hanging towels over the curtains, etc). Then I realized — no one can tell I look tired/peeved/bored!

    Winner winner…

  49. Nanani*

    #2 – if you don’t want to wear makeup, don’t wear it just to placate your boss!
    You probably know this, but for anyone who doesn’t, telling women who don’t wear makeup (at all or just not this time) that they look tired, sick, or otherwise unwell is EXTREMELY common and is the direct result of a lot of sexist garbage in media and society at large.

    IMO if your job doesn’t include getting made-up by professionals (like, to go on stage or in front of a movie camera) then make up is not actually -required-, it’s just one more tax on women’s time and money imposed by pointless gendered expectations. So, only wear it if you actually want to.

    (those who enjoy make up, have fun, this shoe does not fit you)

  50. OP1*

    So I’ve been commenting on this thread all morning but just in case people don’t want to dig through everything, here are some summarized clarifications/additional info.

    1.) This was in the past and I made all requested accommodations without a fuss or putting anything back on the employee. It’s very frustrating to see the number of people who think I’m trying to skirt accommodations as a whole. That was never the case, my question was about the line between reasonable and unreasonable.

    2.) My only frustration with my employee was about the manner in which these requests came in, one at a time, and with very little notice, which left me to scramble. Had this employee informed me at the offer stage I would have been much better able to plan and prepare.

    3.) The bulk of my frustration was with my company at the time, although I will concede that that was not fully clear from the letter. It has been interesting to me to see how many people wrongly assumed I blamed the employee not the company though. Specifically people think I was annoyed at my employee for burning capital. I was annoyed at my employer at the time or putting me in a position where I had to burn said capital.

    4.) I’m incredibly distressed and upset to see the number of people who were eager to believe I am Islamaphobic. I am very much not. I am not a religious person, but I was raised among many different religions, and I have the utmost respect for people of faith, of any faith. My question has nothing to do with the faith of the person in question, it purely has to do with trying to define the line between reasonable and unreasonable. It’s one of the many reasons I left the specific religion of the employee out of it. Another is that I never asked them their specific religion, they always referred to it as “my religion” or “my culture” and I accepted that. Could I put it together? Yes. Did I particularly care about the specific religion? No. They said it was a religious accommodation and that was good enough for me.

    1. EmKay*

      I understand what you are saying. But islamophobia was not a “jumping to conclusions” reaction to your letter, given the US-centric context of this website.

      1. OP1*

        It’s absolutely jumping to conclusions. Just because this is a US site doesn’t mean that it’s not. I never mentioned Islam or anything that was specific to Islam. People jumped to conclusions about the faith of my employee and about what a question about a legal term meant.

        If I posted the same question about an accommodation for a pregnant woman, and commenters assumed I was anti-pregnant women that would also be jumping to conclusions.

    2. Chickaletta*

      I didn’t read all the comments but I’m so sorry that it seems that commenters misinterpreted you and accused you of trying to cheat the system or being Islamaphobic! I understood your question as being exactly what you described – advice on how to handle a situation like that as a manager.

      For what it’s worth, employees accept jobs all the time without disclosing full information about their situation and there’s nothing that can be done because, well, it’s just their right. Thinking back to the time one of my friends took a job without telling the employer that she was pregnant even though during the interview the employer made it clear that she would be taking over responsibilities for another employee who was going on maternity leave at roughly the same time. She got the job and then dreaded having an awkward conversation with her new employer – which OF COURSE was awkward and uncomfortable, she kind of earned that.

      1. Sal*

        sheeeeeeit, that’s a rough one. I don’t know if I could have kept mum (heh) about that one and normally I’m militant about “how about you deal with my pregnancy just like you’re required to do by law”. But that one starts to really edge up to the line.

    3. Observer*

      No one was jumping to conclusions they were reaching reasonable conclusions based on what you said. And let’s be honest, they did get at least one thing right, so there is that.

      A few things that are worth thinking about.

      Firstly, I believe you when you say that you are not Islamaphobic. But whether you realize it or not, it seems pretty clear that you are looking at the issue from a culturally Christian lens. The issue of lower productivity during Ramadan is a good example. As many others noted, does your company react the same way about lower productivity around Christmas / New Years?

      Another thing to think about is your expectations around who bears the responsibility in accommodations and what reasonable is. None of the accommodations your employee asked for come close to being unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason they became a problem is because your (former?) company has extremely rigid policies which really do not seen based in actual need. (I’m basing this on the responses I’ve already seen up-thread.) Reasonable accommodations don’t become unreasonable just because the company says “policy”. And it doesn’t become the employee’s problem to jump through extra hoops because the company says “policy.”

      Similarly, the fact that staff are busybodies that complain about things that do not affect them is also not something that makes an accommodation “unreasonable”. Unreasonableness is totally on the people who stick their noses where it does not belong.

      Lastly, I really wonder how much your company cares about doing what is legal, much less ethical and right. The idea that you needed to burn capital to make simple, basic and legally required accommodations is extremely problematic.

      I hope I am reading this comment correctly and you are in a better job situation now. Please don’t take that dysfunction with you. That’s easier said than done – you need to be very intentional about that, and you need to recognize the problem first. Look at some of Alison’s pieces on how a bad workplace can warp your sense of appropriateness. That really seems to apply here.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      Thank you for the clarification. I do hope that everything worked out in the end.

      I can see your point about requests coming in at last minute. It sounds like that might have been what was causing the frustration. Although I don’t think this was exactly unreasonable it was not very thoughtful on the employees side. Perhaps he was new to this line of work or had never had a job where he would have had to ask for such accommodations before?

      Something to consider is if this happened again would be after the 2nd accommodation request I would sit down with the employee and ask that he think of all of the accommodations he would need,