asking my boss to reimburse weight loss surgery, company fires people by phone after work, and more

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

1. Should I ask my boss to reimburse my weight loss surgery?

I work for a two-person firm—it’s just me and my boss, along withsome freelance contractors. My boss is very progressive and pays for my health care 100%, meaning he pays the premiums for insurance and reimburses me for copays and deductibles. He doesn’t look at what the actual appointments or procedures are—I just send him a spreadsheet of my out-of-pocket expenses with the doctor names and appointment dates.

I’ve decided to go for bariatric surgery on a doctor’s recommendation and after struggling with my weight for 20 years. My insurance covers it, but it is about $3,000 out of pocket because I have a very high deductible. My boss already asked what the surgery is for when I put in for the time off, and I dodged the question by saying it’s a “stomach issue.” I know people can be super judgmental about weight loss surgery, and I suspect he’d be one of them. But the $3,000 is a lot for me. So my question is twofold. One, do I submit that $3,000 for reimbursement even though the surgery is sort of elective? And two, do I tell him what the surgery is?

I … don’t know. The whole arrangement is so boundary-blurring that I’m getting hives thinking about it. It’s great that he pays all your out-of-pocket expenses, but it’s not great for your privacy: you’ve got to submit the doctors’ names to him (which means he could figure out what type of practice it is if he cared to), it doesn’t seem like there are clear guidelines for what you should and shouldn’t submit, and he’s asking what the surgery is for (with an implication that you need to tell him if you want him to pay for it).

In any case, your insurance covers this and if your agreement is that he pays your deductible … then this falls under your arrangement. That seems clear-cut! But realistically, is it going to be an issue if you say “stomach issues” and he finds out later that it was weight loss surgery and feels like that was outside the spirit of your agreement (whether or not that’s legitimate) and are you willing to deal with that if it happens?

2. Company fires people by phone after work

My brother’s friend got fired, and after I heard the story, I really wanted to get your opinion on how it went down. The friend had been on a PIP so it wasn’t unexpected, but the manner in which the company carried out the actual firing was … not great.

This poor guy goes into work with no idea anything’s up. He carries out his usual workday, carries on with his projects as normal, goes to a few meetings as normal, and then, that night, after the end of the workday when he’s at home, someone calls him and tells him that he’s fired and not to come in the next day. As I’m marveling at the spinelessness of it all, I’m told that this is now how the company does all firings because of the possibility of workplace violence. They didn’t single out this guy with a particularly crappy firing experience, that’s just how they do it. I know a couple other people who work there, and they confirmed that yes, this is now the company’s policy. All firings are done over the phone after the close of the business day. Just about everyone’s got a tale of a coworker suddenly not showing up one morning and HR swooping in to clear out their desk.

Is this a real thing now? Companies calling people after hours to fire them instead of just doing it face-to-face because they’re afraid people might get violent? Or is this HR department just wildly off-base? I still can’t get over how this seems like textbook “how not to fire someone,” and treating every employee like a potential powder keg regardless of the actual circumstances just rubs me the wrong way.

Nah, it’s not a thing. I mean, you might find other companies that are doing it too, but it’s not a recommended practice or anything like that. It’s a terrible practice! When you fire someone, you want them to feel they were treated fairly and with dignity, and this is not that. (Ensuring they feel treated fairly and with dignity also happens to be the best way to prevent violence.)

Plus, what if the person doesn’t answer their phone that night? Or the next night? If you knew you were going to be fired, couldn’t you just stop answering your phone after work and thus drag it out forever? It’s very odd.

3. One of our clients may be declining mentally

I work for a large government organization that deals with clients from the NGO community on a daily basis. We have two teams that do different things, and both have general mailboxes that are monitored. For the sake of explanation, let’s say my team handles everything about morning tasks, and the other team handles everything about afternoon tasks. Those tasks are part of the same day, but are very different and have been separate for decades.

Many of the NGO representatives we deal with are 80+ years old, which is normal in this community of organizations. Normally this doesn’t cause too many issues, but there is one person we’ve been working with who I think has started to decline mentally.

Her emails to our mailbox have started to become more and more nonsensical, with her sending the wrong attachments, repeats of emails, emails with the wrong subject line, sometimes with random capitalizations, or all capitals except the first letter of the email. Sometimes they don’t make sense. She’s also started regularly sending emails meant for the Afternoon Team to the Morning Team mailbox. She’s been sending emails to both inboxes for years, and the mistakes have only started in the past few months. Each time I email her back and tell her it’s the wrong inbox, and that I haven’t sent this to Afternoon Team, she’ll have to redirect it herself. I was sending them for her and letting her know, but after the fifth or so email in one day, I thought I needed to tell her to do them herself.

She has a history of non-response as well, and of sending in forms incorrectly or incompletely.

My internal team, including my manager, has been made aware that I’m concerned for her, but I don’t know what else to do. I don’t have any relationship with this person beyond answering her emails, but I’m worried about her, and worried about the affect this might have on her clients and organization. What do I do?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much you can do. You don’t know her beyond answering emails from her, so you don’t really have standing to talk with her, her employer, or her family. But if you — someone so far removed — is seeing these issues, it’s highly likely that others closer to her are seeing them as well and will be better positioned to address it. It made sense to alert your boss, but this is a situation where’s there’s not really anything else you can do. I’m sorry!

4. Does it look unprofessional to job search with my school email address?

I graduated from college in 2014 and even though I’m an alum from years ago, the email they assigned me still works. Is it unprofessional that I’ve continued to use this email when applying for jobs and networking? I do have a Gmail account I could use instead. I rarely use it now, so it’s not that it’s a personal email address and my college email is my professional email address. That said, I was curious what you would suggest before I transfer emails to a different account. I feel sort of embarrassed and immature for still using my college email so I guess I’m answering my own question, but I’d still love your insight.

It’s totally fine! Lots of people use their alumni email addresses for job searching, even years after graduating.

The only caution I’d give is that even when schools tell you that you’ll have the address forever, occasionally they change their minds and end up cutting them off after X years — and then if anyone emails you there, they won’t reach you. So if you wanted to be absolutely safe, you’d use a Gmail address or similar. But as far as whether it looks unprofessional to use the school one: Nope.

5. Can I ask a manager for their own references?

I saw a tweet the other day from an interviewer that was impressed when she was asked for references that speak to her management style. Have you heard of this becoming a thing? I would love to try it out in some of my own job searches!

Yes, this is a thing some people do! I wish more people did it. It’s usually worded as something like, “Would you be willing to put me in touch with people you’ve managed who can talk to me about your management style and their experience on your team?” Ideally you want that to include at least one person who doesn’t currently work for the manager, since they may be willing to be more candid. (You’d do this toward the end of the process or after you have an offer; it’s not something to ask for right off the bat — just like employers shouldn’t be checking your references at early stages either.)

{ 368 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Enough*

    #4. My son (2008) uses his school account for personal items. Don’t know if he has any other account except for his work. My daughter (2018) doesn’t even remember her login information so never hears from the school. She has a Gmail account for professional purposes.

    Reply
    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      After I graduated, I set up my alumni email to forward all correspondance to my gmail account.

      That worked really well for me and eventually I transitioned entirely to gmail.

      Reply
      1. Antilles*

        That’s what I did too and it’s worked really well. If someone still has your old school email, you still get it, but then you can gradually transition.
        It also works well to solve Alison (and others) point that they might eventually kill the old emails, because the transition gets everybody familiar with your gmail rather than your school email.

        Reply
      2. Nanani*

        Yep, same here. I always figured “keep this email for life” would not really be for life – it was an easy promise to make when email was relatively shiny and new.

        Reply
        1. Great Company you should trust*

          The way they did ours was first initial and then first 7 letters of your last name. Well, my last name is 8, so it always looked like just the last letter was missing and people always made a mistake and used my whole name. If it had been several letters longer or it was shorter than 8 it would have been ok.
          Thats the reason I stopped using it. haha

          Reply
          1. SaintPaulGal*

            Same, except mine was the first 7 letters of one’s last name followed by the first initial. (Jane Schwarzkopf would be Schwarzj at school dot com.) My last name happens to be 9 letters, and my first initial is the same as the 8th letter of my last name. So my email was just my last name minus the last letter. And goodness was that a pain.

            Reply
    2. NYWeasel*

      My 2015 college account stayed active for maybe 3-4 years after graduation but it’s been cut off for a while now. I’d say it was with no warning but tbh, I tended to just delete the stuff from the college without reading it, so they may very well have sent me 20-30 warnings. Ooops, lol.

      Reply
      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Come to think of it, my .edu email address was forwarded to my same-user-ID hotmail dot com address, which may or may not still exist. Honestly haven’t thought of that email in ages!

        Reply
      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        My college account closed on graduation, but my graduate account is free and in perpetuity.

        Because of a loophole/quirk that has since been resolved, my graduate account is very memorable. The standard format is roughly givenname(dot)surname(dot)year(at)graddomain(dot)net but I managed to get my first name, eg beth(at)graddomain(dot)net. I use it very frequently for personal things.

        However, I don’t use it for professional things. I maintain a private domain equivalent to gvklinkerhoffen(dot)com, then create email aliases such as beth(at) or elizabeth(dot)von(at) or whatever feels most appropriate for each contact. This is a useful way of managing email, not least because you can change where the alias points to if for example you switch from GoogleMail to FastMail.

        Reply
      3. lemon*

        Universities can handle email migrations really poorly. I’m still a grad student, and my university recently bungled our email and caused me a lot of headaches.

        They changed our email addresses from username [at] mail.university.edu to username [at] university.edu. But instead of setting it up so that mail.university emails would automatically be delivered to university.edu, they just created a new university.edu account for everyone and started sending emails there.

        I forward the mail.university account to my personal email, so didn’t notice any changes for a while. But, about a year later, they decided to just shut off the ability to forward emails on that account, and didn’t make any announcements about it. That caused a huge headache as I had signed up for a few things with that address and wasn’t able to get my notifications or reset passwords on accounts. Not even the university help desk was aware that forwarding had been turned off.

        Anyway, the lesson is: I wouldn’t trust university email for very long after you graduate. Things can work for years and then one day someone on the infrastructure team decides to make a chance and forgets to tell anyone and you’re out of luck.

        Reply
    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Some universities have a formal program to let alumni get an address through them permanently. It’s a great hook to keep them interested.

      Reply
    4. JJ*

      Keeping a school email account so long after graduating feels odd to me, I would definitely assume the person worked at the university, not that they were alumni. Or if I knew they were alumni, I’d wonder why they haven’t moved on, are they tech-averse and don’t know how to set up a personal email? Are they the kind of person who is stuck in the past?

      Considering how easy it is to get a free personal email address these days, it’s a no for me, especially if you work in an industry where you need to be current/future thinking, like tech, entertainment or design.

      Reply
      1. DataSci*

        To me, depending on what the school in question is known for, I’d assume an alumni email address is either the sort of person who will let you know in the first five minutes that they went to Prestigious University or someone who’s a lifelong diehard fan of University Sports Team.

        Reply
      2. Cymru*

        I keep my university email because I know that the IT people are employees of the university and will be concerned about problems with my account because it could affect the rest of the users, and be more responsive to any safety or security concerns than a for-profit company in a different country would be.

        Reply
  2. idwtpaun*

    RE #2: What a strange practice! If someone called me after hours to tell me I was fired, I would think it was a crank call. Why on earth would I believe some random person on the phone? What could they possibly say to convince me that I couldn’t write off as a social engineering/hacking attempt? That’s aside from the fact that I don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers.

    Also, I’m now really curious if the HR rep doing the over-the-phone firing is technically earning overtime because it has to be done after hours. I can’t imagine it’s good for their morale, imagine having to do the most unpleasant task of your job on what ordinarily should be your personal time.

    Reply
    1. allathian*

      Yeah, it’s odd. That said, if it was the boss calling, presumably he’d have the number in his contacts.

      I would think it would be odd to be fired by anyone other than your direct manager, although to be fair, I’ve never been fired. Layoffs are different, though. During my senior year in high school and for the first two years of college I worked pt for a grocery store that was a part of a chain. Two different chains merged and suddenly there were too many stores (like 5 stores within a square mile). When the store I was working in closed, the area manager came and laid us all off. Even then, I had a month’s notice and I got to do shifts in other stores instead. One store manager needed more staff and liked that I had a few years under my belt and after a few shifts hired me during my notice period.

      Reply
      1. OhNo*

        Do people usually have their boss’ number saved in their phone? I have never done that. I’ve only ever saved the general/switchboard number for my work so I can call in in case of emergency (or someone else can, if I’m not able to – I just save it as “work”). I’ve literally never had any direct lines to any of my coworkers/bosses/departments saved in my phone, much less any personal numbers that they might be calling from after hours.

        Reply
        1. Zephy*

          I’ve had my bosses’ personal cell numbers for all my post-college jobs, along with my coworkers’, in case of emergency. I think it’d be weird if my boss called my personal cell from her personal cell some evening after I’ve gone home to fire me, but I don’t think it’s weird that I have her number or she has mine – she’s the person who needs to know most urgently if I’m running late or can’t come in, for example, so it’s faster to just text her instead of call the switchboard, get transferred, and leave a voicemail on her desk phone if she doesn’t pick up. And sometimes she’s in meetings and needs to text one of her staff to ask a quick question.

          Reply
        2. Koalafied*

          Any outgoing call from my office shows up as the trunk line/switchboard number, including calls I forward from my office phone to my cell phone because I work remotely. When I see the office trunk line is calling me after hours, I assume it’s someone who called my work number and I let it go to voicemail because I don’t take work calls after hours. (Especially when 90% of the calls I get are solicitors.)

          Reply
        3. Hush42*

          Yes, I have my boss’ cell number saved in my phone. My whole team has my cell number as well so they can text me if they can’t come in for whatever reason. They also gave each others numbers and we have a group chat- use mostly to share pictures of pets and random memes. Since WFH started its also used for random issue updates i.e.- my internet just went out waiting on Spectrum etc.

          Reply
        4. Spero*

          Yes, I have my direct supervisor’s cell saved – I text her if I’m late/sick and need to call out. I also have my team’s and they text or call me for the same reasons. I’d rather get an ‘I’m sick” text an hour before work than get there and be second guessing where they are…

          Reply
        5. Allegra*

          We have a spreadsheet in the company drive of people’s numbers for emergency contact, but I only have my direct manager in my phone. I assume she has our numbers, because once she texted me to say “if you haven’t left the house yet, don’t, the heater broke so we’re working remotely today,” which was very appreciated.

          Reply
        6. SaintPaulGal*

          Yeah, I’ve definitely had the phone number of every single boss I’ve ever had, going back to the Nokia brick phone days and my high school job. In adult, professional sorts of jobs, I’ve had all of my team members’ numbers saved as well. The boss’ number is who I will text if I’m sick or running late; the coworkers are for planning group lunches, connecting when offsite, etc.

          Reply
        7. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, I kept my boss and my team lead’s work cell phone numbers in my phone when I worked at Exjob. I only used them when I had an emergency. They had mine too but they never called me.

          Reply
    2. Bilateralrope*

      Which leads to a dispute about the exact firing date and potentially how much the employee should be paid in their final paycheck.

      Reply
      1. LITJess*

        Also COBRA! Did you fire them on Tues the 31st or Wed the 1st? If it was after hours, I’d argue it was the 1st and you need to cover health/other insurance accordingly.

        Reply
    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It’s so bizzarre.

      It makes me wonder if someone consulted a self-branded ‘workplace safety’ expert, like with letters we’ve seen in the past with horrifying drills that actually go against expert recommendations on how to prepare for emergencies.

      Reply
      1. JohannaCabal*

        This is what I was thinking. Plus, they got a day of work out of the person.

        (I will say I wish the one job that fired me had done it by phone after work. Instead, I was fired after lunch, so of course, I had to be escorted out. Of course, this was a small office and other staff saw me being escorted to the elevator. At that time, I found the whole situation embarrassing, especially since it was my first time being fired ever.)

        Reply
        1. Sapphire (they)*

          I’ve had two jobs where I got let go and they told me at the end of the workday, which was awful for the “they already got a full day’s work out of me” reason. The second time was a new manager who reasoned that I’d get more money that way, even though common practice is to pay you through the end of the day no matter what time you leave.

          Reply
          1. Anne Elliot*

            The one time I got fired, I worked an entire day on Friday (“Bye everyone! See you Monday!”) and then was called into the empty office on a Saturday by the CEO and head of HR, and told I was fired. They brought boxes for me to pack up my office with, and sat in the CEO’s office chatting and laughing while I dazedly packed up all my stuff and loaded it into my car. I spent a lot of time afterward reviewing all the ways that IMO it could have been handled better, starting with better management so that I had some idea I was at risk performance-wise, which I honestly did not know. I finally realized that I didn’t have to be okay with it, I just had to let it go — one more thing that happened to me, that could not be changed, and that needed to be overcome. I’m in an amazing job now, and as so often happens with awful experiences, I’m a better person for it.

            Reply
            1. Sapphire (they)*

              Oh my gosh, that’s even more awful! I’m so glad you’re in a better place now.

              Reply
    4. Self Employed*

      This used to happen to me from temp agencies in the 1990s. Everything would seem OK at work, they’d say “See you tomorrow,” and I’d get a call from my recruiter after I got home telling me not to go in the next day. (Usually the reason was that “you make people feel uncomfortable” or just “you’re not a good cultural fit.”) Sometimes I would have personal belongings on my desk and I was never given an opportunity to retrieve them–not even c/o the agency.

      Reply
      1. Bilateralrope*

        If that ever happens to me, I know exactly what my response would be. One email telling them that I want to arrange the return of my property. If they arrange something, I’ll consider the matter closed.

        If they refuse or I get no reply after a week, I’ll be talking to the police about their theft of my personal property.

        Reply
      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Oh yeah, been there.

        One Friday afternoon I took a call from the temp agency saying they were doing their best to match me with something for Monday … and they were astonished that their client, maybe fifteen feet away from me, hadn’t mentioned to me that it was my last day.

        Some people are cowards. Some people just suck.

        Reply
        1. Aquawoman*

          That is extra weird what with it being the nature of temp work! Also, inconsiderate of you and your ability to plan.

          Reply
        2. Anon 2.0*

          We had a temp and HR was supposed to tell the agency she was not to return but HR didn’t communicate so one of our managers had to tell the temp that she was no longer needed. Sometimes it’s just a miscommunication on who is telling whom.

          Reply
      3. Junior Assistant Peon*

        That’s a selling point the temp agencies use for clients: you don’t have to have a difficult conversation; we can call the person after hours and tell them not to come back.

        Reply
        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think this is at all true. I’ve had decades of experience with it and could talk for hours about why the growth of temp and freelance work has been mostly bad for workers, but telling an employee that a short-term project or a project with a finite length has been completed as scheduled isn’t a difficult conversation, or shouldn’t be. The main selling point for employers is that they can expand or contract their pool of workers overnight, and mostly without having to give them benefits.

          Reply
          1. MassMatt*

            It IS true, yes the major plus for most employers to use temps is the flexibility you mention, but many temps aren’t brought on for a specific short-term task, they temp for months or even years. I temped for a health insurer for what was supposed to be a 3 month job and it stretched out to about 18 months. After the 1st 3 months it was basically at-will. There were people who were fired and I gather they were told b6 the temp agency not to come back. Outsourcing that is a plus for the employer. When my job ran out the supervisor at the insurer let me know about a week ahead of time, maybe two.

            Reply
        2. Elizabeth West*

          BossWife at OldExjob actually sent a temp home because she wore a low-cut blouse to work. She did that herself. She had no problem having a difficult conversation. D:

          Reply
      4. Threeve*

        The temp agency I worked for in the 2010s did this too. The time I got the “don’t come in tomorrow” call, the explanation was “they thought you were great, but decided the project was close enough to being finished that they’d just have a staff member wrap it up.” So you could be a fantastic temp, and still be completely disposable.

        Reply
        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think there’s anything unfair or surprising about this unless the position was said to be temp-to-hire and you had some particular reason to believe you would in fact be hired on a permanent basis.

          Reply
        2. Amethystmoon*

          Yeah, that happened to me quite a bit. Temps are the canary in the coal mine. If there is any pending layoff, they will get laid off first. I’m glad to say I haven’t temped in years.

          Reply
        3. Mr. Shark*

          The whole point of being temp is that you are disposable!! They don’t have to give you notice that your work is up, because you are a temp by definition.
          I worked as a temp for about 5 months before my current job, and it was never a difficult decision. They just told me when my temp job was over and I moved on. No big deal. If it happened the day before, the day of, or I was given a week notice, it didn’t matter.

          Reply
      5. LQ*

        Temp agencies are sort of a place this makes more sense. You don’t go back to the temp agency (the actual place that is employing you) at the end of the day, but unless you’ve done something egregious the company wants to get a full day out of you. And you’re a temp so you’re not supposed to have anything personal at your desk.

        Temp agencies, the original “gig” work.

        Reply
        1. JustMePatrick*

          Where I work this is the norm with our Temp Agencies. They get an email telling them who has been ended and why. The worker is technically employed by the Temp Agency, not the Client, so it is their responsibility to contact the person who has been ended.

          Reply
          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            I appear to be the exception here because when I used to temp it was usually the client and not the agency who would tell me when my assignments were finishing, it wasn’t unheard of for me to be the one to break it to the agencies? Wonder if this is a UK thing or if I just dealt with bad agencies?

            Reply
      6. WestOfTheRiver*

        This happened to me too about a half decade ago. It was an intended-to-be-permanent position filled by a staffing agency, where the business would hire on the recruit (me) at the end of the probationary period. I’ll admit I was making mistakes at that job (it was one of my first professional jobs out of college) and in hindsight it was obvious that I was put on a PIP, but my supervisor never made it clear that my job was at risk, and the day before my check-in meeting with my supervisor (where I had put together a binder full of work to show my improvement), I got a voicemail from the recruiter telling me not to come in the next day. It felt awful, mostly because even the recruiter told me on the call that my supervisor loved how well I connected with the staff, so I was surprised my supervisor wouldn’t want to tell me in-person.

        Again, I’m not going to claim I deserved to keep the job nor can I mind-read what was going on with the management at that company that lead to them making the decision this way, but had they even just let me come in the next day, sat down with me at the (again, pre-scheduled) meeting, and said “we appreciate the efforts you’ve made, but we can’t keep you on. Clean out your desk and expect a call from the staffing agency this evening to tie up the loose ends as the agency requires” it would’ve felt infinitely more respectful.

        Reply
      7. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        Oh, man. The 90’s and early 00’s suuuuucked. I went through this exact routine SO OFTEN for about ten years. Eventually I finally gave up on office jobs altogether. (Things are much better now, but I still have lingering anxiety around “Fitting In”.) (I went through something like 11 jobs in 5 years, all of which were intended to be permanent hire. It was traumatic.)

        Reply
    5. Mannheim Steamroller*

      HR might assign a “late shift” of people doing only “you’re fired” calls.

      Reply
    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      Just because it’s after hours for the employee doesn’t mean it’s after hours for the HR person.

      Reply
    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      A company I worked for fired someone via voicemail. He didn’t get the voicemail in time and came into work. His badge had been deactivated, and he assumed it was malfunctioning and got someone to let him in (who had every reason to believe he was just letting in a legit coworker with a malfunctioning badge).

      Any HR people here, please do not fire people this way.

      Reply
    8. So sleepy*

      I mean, if someone from HR called, I’d probably call my boss to confirm because that would be weird. If my boss calls, I’m not going to think it’s a prank unless it doesn’t sound like them and is from an unusual number.

      Reply
    9. Temp anon*

      I was laid off over the phone. This was in 2014, so pre-pandemic. Our company had recently moved to a smaller building so asked for volunteers to do desk-sharing in order to get everyone to fit–this was planned, and considered a feature. I worked from home 3 days a week, coming into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

      I got a call Wednesday morning in November (not after-hours), my supervisor and grandboss were confused about where I was (despite having approved this schedule, which had been in place for a few months) letting me know I was being let go at the end of the year. There’s no good way for this to happen but doing this over the phone was classless.

      The kicker–the following day I phone into a teleconference of about a dozen people grandboss is running. He’s taking attendance and I have to repeat my name to him several times, finally spelling it out (and my name is not complicated). What a jerk. I came in for the holiday party to say goodbye to people and he acts like my best pal.

      Reply
      1. highbury house*

        I was let go by phone while I was on vacation! The boss in question was famously mercurial, but even that shocked my coworkers. There had been no warning, no PIP, no nothing. The reason given was ‘budget cuts’ but that was of course pretext. She just had a bee in her bonnet about me, decided to cut me loose, found out I was on vacation and called me at home, minutes before I was leaving on a trip.

        Good times! I did not feel bad when that company folded due to her bad stewardship.

        Reply
    10. Farrah Sahara*

      Every company I’ve worked for always did their firings on a Monday or Tuesday. I found out, in confidence, that they never, ever did them on a Friday. The reason is that if the person wants to consult a lawyer, doctor, psychiatrist, etc. they will still be able to make an appointment and have access to an external expert mid-week, instead of trying to get a hold of one on the weekend. This also prevents the person from obsessing over it at the start of a weekend and they can start taking action right away, instead of having to wait for Monday to roll around.

      Reply
      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        That’s actually kind of decent. None of the places I worked were that considerate.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West*

        OldExjob laid me off on Thursday. I was very grateful for that since it allowed me to file for unemployment without having to wait through the weekend.

        Reply
    11. Hummer on the Hill*

      I was laid off by phone back in 2018 in the middle of the day. I had worked for the company for over 30 years, and after many layoffs was the only one left doing my job function. (It was a multinational tech company.) Boy were my coworkers cheesed off when they found out!

      Reply
    12. Momma Bear*

      Also, how do they handle personal belongings? This doesn’t give anyone the opportunity to clear out their own desk or to do a handoff with the company to return property (badges, laptops, etc.). It seems like a very strange and backwards practice on many levels.

      Reply
      1. Quickbeam*

        I was walked out of a job after being called in on my day off. 120 mile round trip to hear you’re fired! They then called me incessantly to come pick up my things (I had not been allowed back in). However I felt that this was just to impose another walk of shame so I ignoreed it. 8 years later a box appeared on my porch and it was my stuff from the jobsite…HR had a cousin in my area and dropped it off.

        I can laugh about it now but at the time it was awful.

        Reply
        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          My situation was similar. I got some of my stuff, but I’d been in that position over 15 years and I had a lot of junk! I called a few weeks after to set up a clear-out, and although I had to be “escorted” it was a department head from the division I had been in who I was fairly friendly with – and my office had been in a gray area between public access and restricted, so it wasn’t all that weird for a non-employee to be chaperoned. But that initial perp-walk on firing day was insane, getting escorted by security. I was talking to co-workers along the way, letting them know I’d been fired. I mean, what were they going to do, re-fire me?

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West*

            When I got fired, they said they could ship my things, but I didn’t want to take a chance on anything getting “lost.” Things hadn’t been going well and I’d already sneaked some of my stuff home anyway. I made the HR person and the manager stand there while I packed the rest up. Then the manager helped me carry it out to my car.

            It was all done very quietly, but I’m sure my cube neighbors knew what was going on. They stayed in their cubes and didn’t come out, for which I was thankful.

            Reply
    13. Meghan*

      I worked for a property management company and was fired via text message on April Fool’s day after I had deposited $40k worth of rent. I wasn’t fired by my direct report but by her husband, the co-owner of the business. I went into panic hysterical mode because he refused to answer the phone. So I showed up to work at my usual time the next day. The office manager was so upset that I was there but I just politely sat at the table we met clients at until he deigned to show up an hour later.

      Reply
    14. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I worked for a place that sent the coworker who had been training me to my house to let me know that the owner had fired me.

      Reply
    15. Sleepytime Tea*

      I worked someplace concerned about workplace violence when letting people go, so they had a weird process too. HR had a special room that had a door that led directly outside. You were brought to that room, someone would ask you what important personal items you had at your desk like a purse and went to go fetch them, you were fired, and then walked out the special exit (literally used for nothing but exiting fired people). Any remaining belongings were boxed up for you to pick up later or have mailed to you.

      The box they used to pack up your things was always white, so you only ever knew someone was fired when a white box showed up at their desk because they never informed people when someone left. “Getting a white box” was a euphemism for being fired.

      Reply
  3. AnotherSarah*

    The healthcare situation of OP1 is bizarre—I’ve also worked for an org that paid my premiums and many expenses, which was a wonderful benefit, but it was not done in this intrusive manner. Rather, we had a MFSA that the employer paid into, and it was reimbursed through the third party.

    Reply
    1. AnotherSarah*

      Meant to add—is it the boss that’s paying, or the firm? If it’s the boss, that’s another level of boundary-crossing….

      Reply
        1. Forrest*

          Accountancy-wise, there should be a pretty hard distinction between the boss’s own spending money and the company accounts.

          Reply
          1. MK*

            There might not be a company as such, not every person doing business has created a legal entity for that business.

            Reply
            1. doreen*

              Even if there’s a distinction accounting-wise, if he’s the sole owner, there’s not much real difference between him paying the expenses out of the business before calculating his profit or paying it out of his pocket after he’s collected a salary. There may be a tax difference, but either way, the owner is paying – as my husband said to a former boss “The reason you’re not making a profit is because you’re paying yourself a $500K salary”. If he had taken a lower salary, he would have had more profit but it was going to be the same amount either way.

              Reply
              1. Koalafied*

                Yep. I have a very small freelance business that’s a sole proprietorship in my own name – there’s no “company.” But pretty much the first thing a CPA will tell you if you’re starting a business is “don’t commingle your personal and business funds.” While separate bank accounts or credit cards aren’t strictly required, at the very least you need to have some kind of business accounting software/spreadsheet where you’re tracking deductible business expenses so you don’t have to pore over all last year’s statements line by line and a drawer full of paper receipts to figure out what to report for expenses when tax time rolls around.

                Reply
            1. Aquawoman*

              Amendment: my work involves distressed businesses, so that may be less applicable to healthier businesses.

              Reply
      1. Lexie*

        The boss is the only other employee of the company so regardless of which bank account the money is being paid out if he’s still seeing the employee’s health information.

        Reply
    2. LDF*

      Also basically what HRAs are for? The employer can just fund an HRA for the employee with a max of whatever the plan’s out of pocket max is. Or if they’re so generous, just contribute that amount to an HSA, no strings attached. Or literally just hire a disinterested 3rd party to look at OP’s receipts and approve them as necessary without letting Boss see any doctor names at all. There are options that aren’t “submit receipts to your boss”, goodness gracious! Very sorry you’re in this position OP. It’s ridiculous.

      Reply
      1. twocents*

        I kind of feel for OP, but at the same time, I know literally zero other employers that pay for everything possibly related to health insurance including all deductibles and copays. I suppose it’s up to OP for whether the trade-off is worth $3K+ to her.

        Reply
        1. Hil*

          This is a good point, but on the other hand it seems weird and slightly obnoxious to be like, here is an amazing benefit! You can have it if I can seriously violate your privacy. Uhhhh… thanks?

          I totally agree that the net effect for the employee is slightly positive as long as she is not being pressured to submit receipts (if she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing medical details she can just accept paying her own copays like most people do) but there is some high level small business dysfunction happening here.

          Reply
          1. boo bot*

            Yes. It’s a bizarre arrangement, she shouldn’t be asking her boss to approve her medical decisions. It’s true that she can pay out of pocket if he says no, or if she doesn’t want to ask, but that dynamic shouldn’t exist in the first place.

            Reply
      2. mskyle*

        Yes! I am extremely fortunate to get basically this same benefit at my employer (I get reimbursed up to my deductible and for large copays like imaging and hospital visits, post-deductible, though not for the smaller copays) but I submit my receipts/EOBs to the anonymous corporation that runs my company’s HRA. It’s much nicer and more boundary-ish.

        That said, where this is just a two-person operation, even with an HRA the boss would probably be able to put two and two together if/when he learns about OP1’s bariatric surgery – boss would be the only one paying into the HRA, and OP (and maybe boss/boss’s family) would be the only one withdrawing from it.

        Reply
      3. Natalie*

        Benefits administration for HRAs and other cafeteria plans aren’t free, so that’s going to be a fairly compelling reason to the boss to not engage one.

        Reply
        1. Snailing*

          Yeah but for one employee, it’s pretty dang cheap. I work in benefits consulting and most HRA admin fees we see are maybe $4-5 per employee per month. If you only have one employee, that’s only $48-60/year!

          Reply
      4. Lucy P*

        It could be a QSEHRA, which is meant for small businesses, and can be self-administered by the company. However, maximums for 2020 were $5,250 per individual. So, maybe it doesn’t really fit into that category, based on the amounts owner seems to be paying for OP’s healthcare costs.
        We had looked into this for our company when the co decided to do away with health insurance coverage (our group size makes employer coverage optional). However, the idea of having to give actual receipts for medical care to the employer for review and approval of payment was cringe-worthy.
        I think if OP is comfortable, in general, with this arrangement with the company owner, they should be honest about what they’re going to do and see if owner is willing to foot the bill.

        Reply
    3. Juniper*

      Agreed. And doesn’t it carry tax implications as well? I’m not in the U.S. so please correct me if it’s not relevant, but at least where I live an employer covering a benefit like this would subject the benefit to taxation. Which doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but it would have to be tracked on a payslip showing the proper deductions.

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

        I don’t think so because usually health care costs are pretax. So If they are getting reimbursed i would say it would be the same as an HSA.

        Reply
      2. CDM*

        You are correct, this type of reimbursement plan was a way to increase employee income tax-free before the ACA imposed income tax requirements on “Cadillac” healthcare plans.

        I first learned that this type of reimbursement plan existed in 2009 or 10 while listening to a law partner bitch endlessly about how unfair it was she was going to have to pay income taxes on the $5k+ her law firm was reimbursing her annually for her out of pocket healthcare expenses because it wasn’t income by her definition, while making it pretty clear that she gave zero thought to the fact that the lesser paid support staff in the firm paid out the same amounts with no reimbursement. This firm paid those reimbursements through a supplementary “healthcare policy” making the cost tax deductible to the firm also.

        Healthcare costs are pretax only up to the annual FSA or HSA contribution limits, and then again when costs exceed a certain percentage of an individual’s gross income (7.5%, IIRC) This type of reimbursement plan is an attempt to evade that doughnut hole where ordinary citizens must pay for healthcare with post-tax dollars.

        Reply
        1. Just My Thoughts*

          It has to be formally set up as such. If it’s just a casual setup not according to IRS guidelines, it’s taxable.

          Reply
    4. Jennifer*

      Yeah I was wondering if there was a third party that could handle all this. The OP should ask if she feels comfortable.

      The boss may have good intentions but this could become a huge mess. What if an employee gets pregnant? The boss would know before they felt comfortable sharing with everyone.

      Reply
        1. Hil*

          But her boss is likely not going to be the first person she wants to share her pregnancy with. That shouldn’t be information the boss has defacto access to.

          Reply
          1. fposte*

            I think it’s as stated upthread, though–it shouldn’t be, but that’s the price the OP pays for having no medical costs. She may not be able to refuse the information while still retaining that financial advantage.

            Reply
    5. Momma Bear*

      We get our premiums covered but not the deductibles. IMO if it’s healthcare, it’s healthcare. I wouldn’t hedge if I were asking for the payment. There will likely be follow ups. Even though it’s elective, this kind of surgery is not undertaken lightly. The OP has significant health concerns they want/need to address and this is the option they chose. If there is no exclusion for elective surgery, then I wouldn’t treat it differently than any other payment request.

      Reply
  4. Beth*

    OP1: This should be covered under your arrangement, by all rights. Many non-emergency surgeries are technically coded as ‘elective,’ and we don’t assume that means they’re optional. This is considered medically justified enough that your insurance agreed to cover it; that’s about as objective a measure as you’re likely to get on whether this should be covered in your deal (one of the major roles insurance companies play is to draw lines around what they won’t cover) and it’s passed the test.

    That said, your boss’s nosiness is really off-putting. In an ideal world, he should have no access to your medical info–not your doctors’ names, not any appointment info, and definitely not the details of why you’re getting surgery! In this world, I can see why you’ve come to the arrangement you’ve reached—it’s definitely financially appealing—but you’re trading a lot of private info for that money, in a way that’s blurring the lines between professional and private life. This kind of arrangement only works as long as you trust each other implicitly. He needs to trust you not to submit extraneous fees for reimbursement; you need to trust him not to pry, and also not to judge your medical decisions if he does hear about them. Without that, I have serious doubts about whether this arrangement is sustainable.

    Reply
    1. KaylinNeya*

      I agree with this. A lot of surgeries are elective. I had surgery to fix my knee and allow me to walk and it was “elective”. Speaking as a medical professional, bariatric surgery (although it has its dangers) can immensely improve the health (both long and short term) for those who need it. If your doctor and surgeon have agreed that you qualify and need it, then it sounds important. Ultimately, it’s up to you on whether you want to open the possibility of your boss finding out, but saying stomach surgery is not lying. I don’t think that people should be judgmental about weight loss surgery, especially with the possible benefits and given that it’s recommended by a professional. However, real life is not so clean or nice. Best of luck to you whatever you do, and may your surgery go well and your recovery be smooth!

      Reply
      1. Frapperia*

        People should be judgmental about weight loss surgery. It’s amputating your stomach irreversibly. Many many people put the weight back on and more, because it doesn’t deal with the often maladaptive mental health behaviours that may lead to weight gain, and many others end up with long term nutritional deficiencies, absorption issues and other problems. Doctors who recommend it are usually fatphobic or ill informed. It is an incredibly dangerous surgery with a high risk of illness, severe side effects and even death. Better to access Health at Every Size and work on your health another way.

        Reply
    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      “This is considered medically justified enough that your insurance agreed to cover it; that’s about as objective a measure as you’re likely to get…”

      This is very good point. Insurance companies are quite picky about what they consider “medically necessary” and will look for reasons to not cover an expensive surgery like this. The fact that they have agreed to cover this says volumes.

      Fwiw, I had weight loss surgery 20 years ago, and my insurance covered it at the time. It was scary, but I’m really glad I went through with it. It turned out to be a great choice for me. I wish you all the luck in the world with your surgery, and with your weight loss journey, and I hope you’re at least as happy as I was with the results.

      Reply
      1. Sleepless*

        My husband had weight loss surgery three years ago, and our insurance was quick to tell us that they would not cover one cent, not under any circumstances, nope. (Oddly, they did pay the anesthesiologist’s bill. I guess the doctor submitted it and they just didn’t ask what it was for. Whatever.) It’s fantastic that your insurance will cover it, OP. Good luck-it’s a huge undertaking but it is worth it.

        Reply
        1. Ms Jackie*

          Im getting it done in a few months – paying 100% out of pocket. If i dont ge tit, i know i will die sooner than later. $21k out of pocket <the value of my life.

          Reply
    3. Lexie*

      I was a file clerk for a surgical practice once upon a time and I’ve seen surgeries that were necessary to long term survival listed as elective because it didn’t need to happen immediately. A person can elect not to have a medically necessary procedure.

      Reply
      1. Sasha*

        Most cancer surgery is elective – it just means “booked”, as opposed to being done on the emergency list like a ruptured appendix. A lot of lay people seem to think it means “cosmetic”, or optional.

        Reply
        1. Jaydee*

          Right. Elective just means “I technically had a choice in whether/when to have the procedure because death was not so imminent that we couldn’t all get out our calendars and pick a date.”

          Reply
      2. Metadata minion*

        Yeah, elective basically means “you get some choice in when this happens” rather than “you need this as soon as we can get a surgery open or you will die”.

        Reply
        1. Jen0701*

          I’m the OP. Thank you so much for answering this—I really like the way “elective” was reframed. I’ll use it.

          Reply
    4. anonymous7*

      I’m a little concerned about what happens if the OP does tell the boss it’s bariatric surgery but then doesn’t lose weight after the surgery, or loses weight and gains it back for whatever reason, or even loses weight but the boss decides they should have lost more weight? Will the boss give them a hard time that they paid the deductible for what the boss has decided was an unsuccessful surgery?

      Reply
      1. Laura K*

        I’m having gastric bypass soon as a way to treat a hiatal hernia/constant heartburn. Even with these issues, bariatric surgery is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize. I’ve been screened for everything from sleep apnea to heart problems to mental health issues. Never again will I consider surgery “the easy way” to lose weight. Good luck to you!

        Reply
      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        That’s quite a stretch. Although the set-up is odd and blurs privacy lines, there’s nothing in the OP’s letter to indicate her boss would be like that.

        Reply
    5. Meghan*

      I agree that you shouldn’t need to disclose all this information, it’s none of his business and you don’t need to justify it to anyone. That said, unfortunately the real world isn’t as kind about these things and especially something like bariatric surgery, the results will be noticeable pretty immediately. I’ve had it myself and lost over 100 lbs in about 8 months. It’s not something that goes unnoticed and so hiding it will, unfortunatly, not be a realistic option.

      You can absolutely choose not to discuss it with him, and that is fine. However, if you do want language to use with someone who is judgey (and who doesn’t understand how difficult the lifestyle required to maintain this weight loss is), you can say that this surgery was deemed medically necessary by your doctors, and can give you years on your life by reducing or eliminating many co-morbid issues that come with obesity like diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and mobility issues that can limit the ability to lose weight on your own. It is a tool to jumpstart your way into a healthier lifestyle, it is not a quick fix. Again though, it’s not necessarily your job to educate him on this, although I found after my surgery that people were far less judgey than I thought they would be and were largely supportive.

      Good luck, it’s going to really change your life!

      Reply
    6. Koalafied*

      +100

      Just because it’s not a mandatory life-saving surgery doesn’t mean it’s cosmetic. Weight loss surgery isn’t just on offer to anybody who wants to fork over cash – it’s available to people whose doctors deem it medically necessary or beneficial. There are loads of medical conditions besides overweight where surgery is one treatment option, and there are other alternative treatment options, and there’s also the “do nothing and suffer with chronic ill health because it’s not going to kill you overnight” option that a lot of people end up choosing for one reason or another (financial, medical phobia, religious beliefs) so the surgery option isn’t specifically required, but your doctor still advised you to do something to improve your health. Choosing surgery from a menu of options isn’t a choice you should have to justify to anyone but your healthcare provider and possibly your loved ones if you choose.

      Reply
    7. Molly*

      I wonder how his insurance program is set up? I know my employer sees, and pays, for all of our procedures on the backend (the insurance company just administers the plan). I don’t think they can see bills tied to particular employees but they certainly had enough information to boot spouses off our plan because their claims were much higher than employees. I guess what I’m saying is it could be that the employer pays for the brunt of it whether you tell him or not.

      Reply
  5. edddddz*

    “Fergus, we’ve been trying to reach you for several weeks now. You must be available answer your phone after work hours.”

    “Pff, nah fam I don’t feel like it”

    “That attitude is unacceptable, you could be fired for this!”

    “…can I though?”

    Reply
    1. Ha ha*

      Your comment made me literally LOL. Too bad it’s not on Reddit where you could earn lots of upvotes.

      Reply
    2. SarahKay*

      So glad I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee as I read your comment, or my keyboard would’ve needed cleaning! Your last line is pure gold!

      Reply
    3. PT*

      All of the young people I worked with.

      *called to see if they could cover a last minute shift because someone is out with the flu*
      “555-1234 has not set up their voicemail. Goodbye”

      I guess they cannot be terminated.

      Reply
  6. Bilateralrope*

    One big complication I can see with #2 is any case where an employee has any of their personal property at work for whatever reason.Does the company even have a procedure for returning it ?

    Especially with how scared they are about workplace violence.

    Reply
    1. rudster*

      I thought about that too. Maybe they pack it up and ship it to you? At least the late-night phone call spares everyone the dilemma of figuring out the best time of day to fire people at work. I mean, if I had come in only to be fired first thing, I would think they could have at least spared me the hour commute and let me sleep in. If at the end of the day, that just seems exploitative – “We’re firing you because we don’t think your continued presence or effort is worth the expense of your salary, but we figured why get another day of work out of you anyway.” Firing someone at midday is the worst of both of the options.

      Reply
      1. Nettie*

        I used to keep a shoe rack under my desk with about 12 pairs of shoes. I’d be really upset if I lost 12 pairs of shoes because I couldn’t collect my stuff.

        Over half the employees at my last job got laid off last year, and they had to set up a staggered schedule for everyone to go to the office to pick up their stuff. It took me a couple trips to my car to get everything out, so I probably won’t keep that many shoes in the office any more.

        Reply
    2. Beth Jacobs*

      I’ve also always had some of the employer’s property at home – at least a keycard or physical keys, but sometimes a phone and laptop as well. I guess that’s not a thing at that company? Seems weird.

      Reply
      1. Cat Tree*

        I had the same thought. A keycard isn’t a big deal because they can probably deactivate that remotely. But it’s very common for people to take their laptop home at night. Even if the company isn’t really an office-based industry and most people don’t have personal laptops, surely at least a few people do (accounting, HR, sales) so this would have to be a problem at some point.

        Reply
    3. Self Employed*

      This happened to me several times via temp agencies. I never got my personal property back–which is why my flatware is short a few forks that I had accidentally left in lunch bags at the office and couldn’t retrieve.

      Reply
        1. Michelle Smith*

          Maybe? But good luck getting anyone (the company, the police, the courts) to care even slightly about the loss of a few forks. If it’s theft, it’s a pretty insignificant one.

          Reply
          1. SarahKay*

            And the lunch bags they were in, and whatever else Self Employed had in the bag. Not to mention, it may not be stuff of significant value, but it’s still a very bad look for employers to steal people’s personal possessions.

            Reply
            1. doreen*

              Yeah , if it was stealing. But although we know Self Employed didn’t get the lunch bags or forks back – we don’t really know why they couldn’t be retrieved. Might have been because the companies refused to allow Self Employed back at the office to get them – or it might be that Self-Employed didn’t have time to pick them because the temp agency had an new assignment immediately. One might be theft, the other isn’t.

              Reply
    4. Eat My Squirrel*

      I once had one of my employees laid off while she was out on medical leave (crappy, I know… and I had zero input into the layoffs). As her supervisor, it was my job to go pack up her desk and take everything to shipping to be sent to her.

      Another time, my desk neighbor was fired, and she must have gotten scary, because she was walked out immediately. Our boss came to get her purse and coat. The next day he and HR went through her desk and catalogued everything (especially the third part proprietary information she got fired for), and packed up her personal effects to ship to her.

      I think it’s a fairly normal thing to ship a former employee’s things to them. Same thing would happen if an employee died, I imagine. Pack it up and ship it home.

      Reply
      1. The Original K.*

        One of my former colleagues was laid off while she was on maternity leave & someone had to pack up her desk. She also had her work laptop at home (she worked remotely during her last days leading up to her delivery date because the job was far from home/her doctor) and she had to send it back.

        Reply
        1. Mommy Shark*

          It feels super crappy and potentially illegal to lay off someone who is on maternity leave… ugh

          Reply
          1. The Original K.*

            It was definitely crappy but I don’t think it was illegal – she wasn’t laid off because she was pregnant. Her position, along with our whole team’s positions (including mine) was eliminated altogether.

            Reply
          2. TootsNYC*

            think about this, though:
            If you want companies to not be able to take pregnancy or parenthood into account when they are hiring,
            you can’t demand they take them into account when they are terminating.

            You can’t have it both ways.

            Reply
      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The piece of (expletive) company that unjustly fired me way back (I was on medical leave) sent me a box of all the ‘non-work’ stuff on my desk to my front door by my now ex-manager and another member of staff and demanded my company mobile and laptop.

        I mean, I GET why you definitely don’t want to seriously upset someone who worked in IT and could eff up your systems in 3 minutes flat, but I’d have reacted a lot better (I literally went into shock) if they’d waited till I was back in the office and recovered before turfing me out.

        Reply
    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      When I was let go I was allowed to get my bag, and whatever personal things I could cary. The rest was shipped to me.

      Reply
      1. More anon today*

        I got to take what I could carry, then I think I packed up the rest myself but had to come back at the end of the day to pick it up. This was fine except there was one item I’d assumed I should leave behind, and one I was trying to leave, that got loaded into my car anyway.

        Reply
      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        My whole team was laid off the same day (in a series…I was the third let go) and were walked out individually. Other people in the office raided the copy room for boxes so we could pack up our stuff because the poor HR rep who was handling the lay offs had instructions to keep us at our desks until escorting us to the parking garage.

        Reply
    6. doreen*

      They probably have some sort of procedure – there’s someone in my office who was put out on administrative leave ( think of it as a paid suspension) and he wanted to retrieve his personal belongings. There’s a procedure, all right- while he’s on administrative leave someone can pack up his stuff and either meet him at the door or ship it to him. If he chooses to retire or resign or gets fired , he will be allowed in to pack up himself once he is officially off the books as an employee ( it’s apparently a workers comp thing)

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer*

        that … makes no sense. If an employee is off the books but injures themselves picking up their personal belongings (how likely is THAT???) then they can’t go worker’s comp sure, but they have a whole range of OTHER OPTIONS that are often better than worker’s comp.

        Reply
        1. doreen*

          It actually does make sense for my employer- someone on administrative leave is very likely facing termination for a serious issue . Serious enough that almost all of them either retire or resign rather than facing a disciplinary hearing ( and possibly criminal charges) If they come in and pick up their belongings while on administrative leave and fall down the stairs with their boxes , they will be covered under workers comp just the same as I will be if I fall down the stairs on my way out. And if they can stretch that workers comp case into a 2 year leave, that’s two years more credit toward their pension.

          And it’s actually not that unlikely that they would “injure” themselves – my sister works for the state agency that provides workers comp for other state agencies – and she told me years ago that my agency has the most bizarre claim of any agency.

          Reply
    7. foolofgrace*

      I was fired at home and never got my personal belongings back. When I inquired I was told I could drive to where they were being kept (50 miles one way) or “donate them”. No option to have them shipped. I said oh forget it, keep them. Ever since then I don’t keep anything at work that I can’t walk away from.

      Reply
      1. foolofgrace*

        Another time, I was doing some temp work for a doctor, not thru an agency, and when the work was done and I wanted my paycheck, it was several hundred dollars short and he had written on the back something to the effect of “Cashing of this check constitutes payment in full”. I needed money so badly, and what could I do? I cashed the check. I was very young at the time, early 20s. I hope he got a karma payment somewhere along the line.

        Reply
        1. KGB*

          It really doesn’t work that way. You could have still gone after him for the additional money, filed a complaint with the labor board. Sorry that happened to you.

          Reply
          1. fposte*

            And just cross it out write under that “Payment is partial payment on $xxx total.” Likely no one will care, but if he has check imaging he might at least see it and seethe.

            Reply
      2. Up Late*

        “Ever since then I don’t keep anything at work that I can’t walk away from.”

        Exactly. People often wonder why I don’t have family photos or other personal items displayed in my office.

        Reply
        1. Autumnheart*

          Same. I have a 1-box rule for my desk: everything has to fit in one box, in case I need to pack it up. I don’t want to have to make more than one trip.

          I have a couple coworkers who have hundreds of books, documents and just piles of junk in their cube. It takes them all day long to move cubes. Like….take all your crap home. If you haven’t touched it in a year, it doesn’t need to be at your desk anymore. If you want a family photo in your cube, put it on your screensaver. You don’t necessarily have to have Thomas “Neo” Anderson’s zero-item desk, but there’s a lot to be said for traveling light, so to speak.

          Reply
    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      We give all terminated employees the option of cleaning out their own desk before they leave or just heading home and we will ship/courier them the contents of their desk within one to two business days. Most clean out their own space, but I’ve helped with office packing before for people who’d rather not go back to their workspace.

      We’ve had to do a few terminations during pandemic WFH, and we offer the option of drop-off at the office or of sending a prepaid shipping label and, if needed, appropriate packing materials to have technology items and company property returned. The employee can either drop it off at a carrier location or we will have the carrier pickup from their location. Most people who are local chose the office drop-off.

      Reply
    9. Momma Bear*

      I made this same comment before I saw yours. While I’ve seen companies pack up someone’s desk, I think it is the less preferable option. Then again, this company has already gone for the less preferable option.

      Reply
  7. Risa*

    #2 What a strange thing to do! Personally, I would have had my doubts if the call was legit at all or some sort of prank. Who fires you over phone? There needs to be at least proper documentation, preferably with your signature on the exit document (at least thats how it is in my country).

    I was “fired” (no idea if its the right term, could also be lay off?) twice in my life, both times at lunch time and it was both times .. well lets say complicated and not very well received.. since I work in a lab. So I have normally ongoing experiments in the middle of the day which need to be finished. Both times they told me to leave the property and don’t finish up and needless to say I was both times pissed as hell since I care a lot for the work I do. So if I could decide, a layoff would be nice either at the beginning of the day or when I start packing in the afternoon.

    Reply
    1. AcademiaNut*

      As far as I know, there’s no required sign-off in the US, unless you’ve got a contract specifying otherwie (which most people don’t). They have to give you your last paycheck within a specified time, and maybe have to return personal items you’ve left at the office (I’m not sure about the last one).

      But I can see someone deciding this was a nasty prank, and coming in the next day to figure out what’s going on.

      Reply
      1. Beth Jacobs*

        It’s just about documenting. If there’s a dispute about what the employee’s last day was (what they should get paid for), it’s nice to have a signed termination notice. There’s other ways to prove that of course, but why make things harder?

        Reply
        1. fposte*

          Harder for whom, though? I think a lot of employees would refuse to sign on the basis of “What are you going to do, fire me?”

          Reply
    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Oh yeah, not fond memories of having to take over someone else’s lab work halfway through a cell culture run because they’ve been turfed out the door. Labs are chaotic enough!

      Reply
      1. INFJedi*

        Depens on what one is testing in a lab, might be very dangerous as well if you suddenly have to take over an experiment out of the blue, I assume.

        Reply
    3. Person from the Resume*

      Well, since it is known that that is how that company fires people and the person in question was on a PIP, it doesn’t seem like his first thought might be a prank. And if it’s your boss is on the phone, it’s probably not a prank.

      OTOH it does set up pranks where someone thinks they are fired but aren’t until they stop showing up for work.

      Reply
  8. V*

    LW#1, if you feel weird about submitting the receipts without being clear about what it is, could you just have an open conversation with the boss about it? Along the lines of “My upcoming surgery is weight loss surgery, which I am having on the recommendation of my doctor. I understand that people have strong feelings about this type of surgery, however I’m convinced it’s the right path for me to take at this time in my life and due to the medical issues which the doctors are taking into consideration. Given the nature of this surgery I understand if you would not be willing to pay the deductible as you usually do, so I wanted to be upfront with you about it.”

    Reply
    1. Everdene*

      That sounds like it has so much potential to go wrong! You are creating a moral dilemma situation for the boss when there doesn’t need to be and handing over so much power for both now and the future.

      Reply
      1. pancakes*

        I don’t necessarily think it’s the best option, but both the dilemma for the boss if the bill is submitted and the power imbalance already exist.

        Reply
      2. pancakes*

        To clarify, I mean that if the employee submits the bill, the boss already has the power to pay it or refuse to pay it. The nature of their arrangement is that he alone has power over whether the employee’s medical expenses are paid.

        Reply
    2. Forrest*

      but you should never have to disclose this information to your manager! Setting up a situation where you can lose $3k because you don’t want to disclose private medical information is just terrible practice!

      Reply
    3. V*

      Everdene and Forrest, I totally get both of your points and I agree this whole situation is far from ideal in so many ways. But the OP is in this situation so we have to work in this framework. From their letter it sounded like they could only see two options: EITHER don’t submit the receipts for reimbursement (and pay the $3k themselves), OR submit the receipts for reimbursement as normal without saying what it’s for, and feel bad/weird about it now and risk the boss later finding out and objecting to the way they handled it. I’m just trying to point out that there could be a third option which is to have the open conversation. It all massively depends on the relationship with the boss, to what extent the OP can actually afford the $3k, and all kinds of other context we don’t have.

      Reply
      1. Too tired to think of a good name*

        If I were OP, I might try saying to the boss that I have upcoming surgery, which is recommended by the doctor and for which I was hoping to seek reimbursement, but I’m feeling uncomfortable sharing the details as it involves sensitive medical information (which it does), and asking if the boss has a suggestion for how to manage that under the current arrangement. May not get anywhere but at least doesn’t involve disclosing the nature of the surgery (of course, the boss may then speculate). It’s a tricky one.

        Reply
        1. MK*

          That actually makes it a much bigger deal. Even if the boss was generally uninterested and was just asking what the surgery is for out of politeness, a speech like that would set them wondering.

          Reply
          1. So sleepy*

            Yeah, but they are going to be wondering either way because they’ve asked the question (even if it was asked innocently, it will be obvious that LW is avoiding answering it). Add that to the fact that she will look different when the surgery is done, and it’s a no-win situation. I think this approach is a really good option because it communicates that LW does not want to share details while also opening up the dialogue about what the actual criteria is for reimbursement. And I like the “recommended by my doctor” approach – it’s accurate, but doesn’t sound as frivolous as it does when described as an elective surgery.

            But the whole situation is a nightmare, IMO. Health benefits should be pretty black and white, so you know what is and isn’t covered. Instead you have a situation where you don’t know if it’s covered, and you risk stigma for even asking. I feel for you, OP, and for me personally I would be job hunting only because the idea of having to have that conversation makes me break out in hives (which I’d presumably have to tell them about to get reimbursed for the prescription antihistamine, ha).

            Reply
        2. Chilipepper*

          I think too tired has it right, let the boss know doctors required the surgery, it feels awkward to share personal medical info about it, and how does the boss want to handle it?

          Reply
          1. Elsajeni*

            Yes, and I think it provides the opportunity for a bit of a reset, too — “This is the first time something has come up that I feel uncomfortable sharing the details of, but now that I think of it, it probably won’t be the last time — could we change the way we handle these reimbursements going forward?” Something as simple as taking the doctors’ names off the spreadsheet and replacing them with categories like “Routine office visit,” “Specialist office visit,” “Lab testing fee,” etc. would probably work — still a little more detail than most people would share with their bosses, but much less identifying, and limited to what he needs to know to confirm “yep, that type of appointment would be a $40 copay, I will reimburse $40 accordingly.”

            Reply
        3. HR Exec Popping In*

          This whole situation is odd… But it is nice that the OP’s boss reimburses deductibles. They don’t have to do this but want to. And this is part of the employment agreement. OP should assume their boss will pay the for deductible and simply say they have s surgery coming up and are uncomfortable sharing the details of the procedure as it is very private. I would also say that you really appreciate that they do reimbursements but is there a way for you to submit the needed information without getting into the details of the procedure.

          Good luck OP!

          Reply
      2. MK*

        Yes, I think a lot of the comments are concerned with the impropriety of the arrangement, and rightly, but this is the situation as is.

        Reply
    4. Malarkey01*

      I think a conversation may be needed just because of the amount. It really depends on the arrangement but $3k may be something that boss is never expecting to pay regardless of the reason. If he normally covers a few $20-$80 copays a year, maybe $250 out of pocket for an ER visit or something that’s pretty different than a surgery out of pocket cost. If OP would be unable to pay this herself, she should clarify with her boss if this would be paid even if the situation is crappy.

      Reply
  9. Lady Heather*

    LW4 – my school email was my primary email address and then they shut off my account with no notice.

    That was a huge headache.

    I would not again use school email for financial/utility/insurance/healthcare and also not as “data storage” (in other words, when you get important emails, forward them to a second email address).

    Gmail can also shut off your account – or quit offering gmail – with no notice… but they haven’t yet.

    Reply
    1. random user*

      If you care that technically gmail can shut down your account without notice then use a paid service by a large company that’s unlikely to go bankrupt overnight. They’re more likely to give you time to export your data if they decide to shut down the service and won’t close your account without notice because you’re paying them.

      Reply
      1. English, not American*

        Hosting it yourself is also an option. And putting a catch-all email forward on the domain means essentially infinite email addresses that can be individually blocked if they get spammed up. Perfect for signing up to mailing lists or sites that you suspect might sell your details, though probably more effort/expense than most people would care to invest (costs me about £70/year).

        Reply
        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Used to host my own email addresses, but unemployment stopped that. I tend to use the same gmail account I’ve had since I was beta testing the service now.

          Granted, it’s not my name or any derivative of it, but an old online alias. Still, it’s the one on my CV…

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

          Obligatory warning on hosting your (generic you) own domain/email: the physical address details used to register can potentially appear on ‘WHOIS’ lookups if you do not set the privacy options so if you are concerned about that, make sure those “protect my details” options are selected when you register it.

          Reply
    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      OP, your school email account won’t raise an eyebrow at all. As long as you don’t have a user name like keepitsexy69@whateverdotcom you are fully fine. And yes, people do apply to jobs with email addresses like that.

      Reply
    3. pancakes*

      Schools are known to do this and my law school did the same, but I think your comment is a bit misleading about gmail.

      “Google reserves the right to suspend or terminate your access to the services or delete your Google Account if any of these things happen:

      – you materially or repeatedly breach these terms,

      – we’re required to do so to comply with a legal requirement or a court order

      – we reasonably believe that your conduct causes harm or liability to a user, third party, or Google — for example, by hacking, phishing, harassing, spamming, misleading others, or scraping content that doesn’t belong to you

      If you believe your Google Account has been suspended or terminated in error, you can appeal.”

      You are unlikely to find a service provider that can or will promise it will never, ever take action to close your account no matter what you do with it.

      Reply
    4. Justme, The OG*

      My school gives you access for two years after graduation. It’s not without notice, because it’s in multiple places for the students to see.

      Reply
  10. Andy*

    In some European countries, unless you did something really grave (alcohol in workplace) on the spot firing breaks regulations. You are supposed to give people advance notice, so that they know to look for job or lower expenses.I have heard of American companies to end up paying salary and also preventing people to come to work.

    I know it is standard in some companies to fire people abruptly and then have them walked out by security and such … but I always find it sort of dehumanizing. Unless there is a reason the person is going to be violent or something like that, the company could show a little empathy.

    Let them collect things, let them say hello to co-workers and acquittances, at minimum.

    Reply
    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I know it is standard in some companies to fire people abruptly and then have them walked out by security and such … but I always find it sort of dehumanizing

      It’s not unheard of, but it is far from standard practice.

      Reply
      1. Chilipepper*

        I actually think employers don’t give 2 weeks notice of a firing and it is mostly of the leave the same day variety. But there should be things like a PIP or other conversations about performance ahead of time so people are not blindsided.

        Reply
        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I was referring specifically to the firing being ‘abrupt’ and accompanied by a security walk-out. Most (not all) firings are not abrupt — they are typically preceded by PIPs as you point out, and security walk-outs are pretty unusual in my experience.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC*

        It used to be standard practice even with layoffs (which are just financial or organizational, unlike a firing); at least, it happened in every layoff situation I’d heard of until a few years ago. The severance pay was supposed to cover the “notice.”

        The first time I saw it not happen that way, the company I was at gave everyone to the end of the week if they wanted it; the morale for those of us who remained was so much higher.

        Reply
    2. English, not American*

      Yeah this surprises me too, I would have thought that the 2 weeks’ notice convention would apply but I guess that’s only a convention on the employEE side. Very weird. You generally have to do something that qualifies as “gross misconduct” to get sacked on the spot in the UK, or be paid garden leave for your notice period.

      Reply
      1. Ariaflame*

        It may depend on what access that person has. I know IT is often very abrupt because of the potential for damage.

        Reply
        1. Hazel*

          I understand why companies do this (to people in IT) but without a specific reason to expect bad behavior, it’s so insulting! “We trusted you up until today, but now we assume that you’ll turn into an unprofessional, sabotaging jackass who will try to destroy the company unless we prevent you.” And this hasn’t ever happened to me! It just strikes me as so obnoxious.

          Reply
      2. Tuckerman*

        I worked somewhere where people were fired and sent home right away, but they knew where they stood every step of the way in terms of improvements needed. We provided a government regulated service to people with disabilities. So if someone was fired for performance, it was after weeks of working intensively with them, but ultimately allowing that person to continue to work was a huge disservice to the community we served, and could have gotten us fined.

        Reply
      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Sadly, not entirely true in the UK. Good firms, yes, will do all that. The bad ones (and I know from personal experience) will boot you straight out the door while you’re recovering from major injury.

        Reply
    3. NoviceManagerGuy*

      I couldn’t even get a Europe-based person who was refusing to do most of his work to leave early after he put in two month’s notice.

      Reply
    4. Anonyymouss*

      I’m in one such country (Switzerland). The legal minimum notice is 2 months (for the employer and employee alike) but a company can free an employee from their obligation to work their notice period and effectively have them stop working immediately (if there are concerns such as confidentiality, quality of work etc.) but they have to pay them their salary in full until the end of the notice period. It’s only common in some industries (banking for instance) but most people work a 2-3 months notice period. I think in cases where the law is breached (violence, stealing, etc.) the notice period can be withdrawn. The employer and employee can also jointly decide on a shorter notice period but the employer cannot make a decision on this alone.

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer*

        that would be awkward. You know you are fired but you still have to keep showing up. Everyone you work with knows you are fired, how do they deal with you? Hey Bob, how’s it going? Well, I’ve only got 2 more weeks to go before I’m out of a job, Fergus, and I don’t have anything else lined up yet. Oh well, Bob, have a nice day.

        Reply
        1. MK*

          Maybe awkward, but it allows you a pretty long period of looking for work without being unemployed, and still drawing a paycheck. It also helps with the “it was a bad fit” narrative.

          Reply
          1. Anonyymouss*

            Exactly. It also makes changing jobs and loosing a job not something overly dramatic and sudden. Your life is not upended, you have time to wrap up things and start thinking of your next move. It does prevent us from walking away after using fish to spell I QUIT, though.

            Reply
        2. Anonyymouss*

          It is… usually really not awkward. It is perfectly normal and ingrained in the work culture here, so that having people work their notice doesn’t feel awkward at all. People being fired for harassment, theft or other serious issues won’t work their notice, and these would be the awkward cases. As our laws don’t distinguish between being laid off and fired (except in cases where the law was broken: embezzlement, harassment, violence etc), being fired also doesn’t carry a massive stigma. As being fired gives you immediate access to unemployment benefits while quitting gives you a few months penalties, it is not uncommon to negotiate this (have your employer lay you off instead of you quitting). I’m not saying there never is some awkwardness, but mostly there isn’t. Actually, the one time one colleague was fired and told to not work their notice and to leave the premises immediately, the situation was so shocking to us that one of our colleague quit in protest to how the situation was handled (we are not in an industry where this is common and to this day, I don’t see it as an overaction).
          Also we do have real unemployment benefits. Someone loosing their job aren’t usually in dire financial trouble the day after. They are likely to have a year with 80% of their salary to find a new position. Depending on your salary, it can still put you in a difficult situation of course, but you don’t go to total loss of income within a fortnight.

          Reply
          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            German law for example has one word (“Kündigung” – related to “putting in a notice”) for *either* the employer or the employee ending the employment relationship. Obviously, the employee has much fewer constraints on how to go about handing in their notice (*). As for employer-initiated dismissals the law recognizes three types :

            * betriebsbedingt (business-related): that’s a lay-off (RIF, elimination of position, restructuring). If too many people are affected (ie, large employer), they have to come up with a social plan.
            * personenbedingt (person-related): that’s the basic firing for anything other than grave cause, that is, usually for lack of prerequisites for fulfilling the role: this includes the unpleasant situation where someone is fired following deteriorating health, insufficient performance, incarceration, immigration issues…
            * verhaltensbedingt (behavior-related): this is the grave cause case – violence, fraud, insubordination, sexual harassment, racism, forgery of time sheets, pretending to be sick when you aren’t, violation of rules and regulations (if sufficiently severe)…

            (*) With the exception of temporary, limited duration employments, which I had for a time, and it was really tough to know that you had to work out the 12 months of your contract even though you had an opportunity coming up in the middle of it. Employers need special justification, though, for offering limited-term employment – bog-standard default employment is open-term.

            Reply
        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, but it’s much less awkward by everyone knowing it’s the normal process.

          I was laid off in the UK and it was a multi-step process: pre-notice that they were considering eliminating my position by date X (several months off), second notice that it would be happening, some (token) assistance to help me look for another job inside the organization, some (not-token) financial assistance to have the severance agreement looked over by a lawyer of my choice (and subsequently negotiated), final date set, worked out, good-bye. The local team didn’t want to get rid of me, so it was all very professional.

          Senior management and business-process critical people (IT, sales, … basically, roles that could either do a lot of harm to the business directly or take IP / customers with them) often get asked to leave immediately (though normally without security involved – again, this is professional), but in exchange get their full notice period paid in the form of gardening leave (they don’t have to actually garden).

          The no-notice, march out by security if necessary situation is largely limited to firings for fault (“severe cause” … ie, not a lay-off, not a performance-related dismissal following a PIP). They frequently are followed by the matter going to a tribunal.

          Reply
    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The firm who fired me abruptly was here in the UK. 4 years ago they did it to someone else under the exact same circumstances (I’d warned that friend NOT to apply to that firm…).

      If they decide that you’re out sick for too long/too many times they can (and will) boot you out the door. Yes, it’s traumatic as all hell.

      Reply
    6. Cat Tree*

      I think it’s important to make a distinction between firing and layoff. At most companies in the US, it’s extremely hard to fire someone. It’s not because of any legal restrictions; management just hates to do it.

      Layoff are different though. They often come with advanced notice (I’ve seen up to an entire year) and/or include a severance package. They don’t always, but the larger companies usually do.

      Sometimes firings also include a severance package. Both types are usually eligible for unemployment also.

      I know the US is really far behind with labor laws, but can we stop acting like it’s universally some dystopian wasteland? Most people are still decent people and most companies handle it better than you’re imagining. There are plenty of bad ones out there and that needs to be fixed, but they’re still in the minority.

      Reply
      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I always found it bizarre that you need extensive documentation of poor performance to fire someone, but you can lay someone off at the drop of a hat.

        Reply
        1. pancakes*

          I’m not clear on whether you’re addressing the standards in the US or Europe, but this isn’t accurate as to either.

          Reply
        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I think it’s because when you fire someone, it’s about the person, & you need to be able to prove you aren’t unfairly targeting that one person. When you lay someone off, it’s about the position & it doesn’t matter who’s in the position. So fairness doesn’t enter into it.

          Also, firing has a stigma that being laid off doesn’t. (And there’s often severance, which an employee might only get if they agree not to sue.)

          Reply
        3. Cat Tree*

          In the US, you don’t legally need extensive documentation to fire someone.

          However, it is generally a good business practice to try to avoid sudden firings, and I think a lot of executives understand that on some level. When you have already invested money to recruit, hire, and train a certain employee it’s usually worth the effort to try to improve their performance rather than fire them and start all over.

          And I’ve said before that I vastly prefer working at places that are willing to fire poor performers, but that comes with the caveat that they need to do it fairly and respectfully, and that it should rarely be sudden (the exceptions are workplace violence and ethics violations such as falsifying data).

          Reply
        4. Anonymous Hippo*

          You don’t “need” it, but people will sue over firings, and not over layoffs, so they want ducks in a row. We had a person in our credit team get caught both sexually harassing the cleaning staff late at night, and getting caught on camera stealing from the local walmart, and they still sued us when they got fired.

          Reply
          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            Exactly – it’s technically at-will employment in the US, but most big companies have a lot of red tape involved in firing to protect the company from lawsuits.

            Reply
        5. TootsNYC*

          because layoffs usually come with severance pay (which covers the “notice period”) and firings do not.

          Reply
      2. pancakes*

        “I realize this is standard practice at some companies but I find it sort of dehumanizing” isn’t at all the same thing as saying “your company is a dystopian wasteland.”

        Reply
        1. Cat Tree*

          Eh, it’s part of a bigger pattern though. On every thread that mentions firing, maternity leave, or employment contracts, someone will inevitably point out that everything is so much better in Europe than the US, and usually with very little understanding of how things actually work in the US. It’s exhausting.

          People read an advice website and fail to understand that these letters don’t represent the average experience. People with good or even neutral experiences rarely write in for advice about that. So someone always ends up with this skewed view of the US and has to tell us how much better it is elsewhere.

          And the US certainly has problems that need fixing! But these tangents that lack all nuance and understanding don’t actually help fix those problems and actually make it harder to drive meaningful change.

          Reply
          1. Sylvan*

            +1

            And “it’s better where I live” doesn’t generally provide any action for the OP to take in their own situation. It’s just sharing that you have a certain privilege because someone without that privilege asked for advice? IDGI.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC*

              well, not every comment is about advice for the letter writer. Alison normally has it all covered. Sometimes it’s just a conversation.

              Reply
      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I know the US is really far behind with labor laws, but can we stop acting like it’s universally some dystopian wasteland?

        I tend to agree with this. Not a not a legal expert by any means, so the labour laws might be operating in ways I’m not always aware of…but having lots of family in the EU and lived in UK and US, I really feel like the advantage that the EU has is more to do with the social safety net (particularly with regard to health care) and less with labour laws.

        There are plenty of UK employers who manage to treat their employees in dehumanizing ways. I think a lot of the problems with power-imbalance and lack of security are larger systemic issues that tend to extend beyond any one nation. (Which is not to say nations can’t be criticised, I just…don’t know that framing these conversations as EU/UK vs US is helpful. If anything, I question whether it can be distorting and sometimes paper over serious issues that do exist in more ‘egalitarian’ countries).

        Reply
        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes, thank you for expanding on it. It’s really easy to just hate on the US specifically for labor laws, but doing so really ignores what is needed for effective change.

          Reply
        2. Anonyymouss*

          Absolutely agree. When there are real unemployment benefits (which you contribute to from your salary, so you are entitled to them, not a burden to society), access to healthcare entirely unrelated to your employment status, losing a job is often not some earth-shattering life event that needs to bring a lot of social awkwardness and shame. It’s just… time to search for a new job while spending some time filling unemployment forms (not saying the loss of a job can’t be traumatic in these circumstance but it’s a lot less likely).

          Reply
      4. Black Horse Dancing*

        Where ever are these most companies? Walmart, largest employer in the world, can, in the US,, simply state “you’re fired, please leave” almost anywhere in the US. Same with many, many companies. They can escort people off the premises immediately. The only places I know where it’s “hard” to fire someone (and really it’s not hard, it just means workers have a few rights) are unionized places with strong unions, government (civil workers), and academia (sometimes–depends on the college/school/university).

        Reply
      5. Aitch Arr*

        “At most companies in the US, it’s extremely hard to fire someone”

        Nah.

        It’s not extremely hard under employment-at-will, it just takes more documentation and acknowledgement of legal risk.

        Reply
        1. Cat Tree*

          It’s not *legally* hard to fire someone, but since when is legality the only factor to matter? Since when do people make choices and take actions based solely on whether something is legal? The vast majority of places I’ve worked never fire anyone ever because of internal policies.

          I really think you’re being disingenuous and intentionally misinterpreting my comment, so I won’t engage with you further on this topic.

          Reply
  11. Bob the Builder*

    #2 That sounds like how you get sacked off a day labouring job in the UK. They know if they tell people any earlier they’ll just drop the gloves.

    Reply
    1. Retail Not Retail*

      I’m in a manual labor job and my manager informed our work release crew they were being furloughed while we were closed for coronavirus last spring at the end of lunch – and then left! Leaving the team lead with a very mutinous team for 2 hours, good times.

      Reply
      1. Retail Not Retail*

        For our second covid shutdown, the guys found out for sure the morning of when they came down for breakfast and we found out when we got to work and oops! no guys!

        I should note they don’t get paid and this did not add to their sentences (some got a reduction last spring), they’re just bored when they’re not working.

        Reply
    2. Nanani*

      … What does drop the gloves mean in this context?
      I know it in the ice hockey sense, where it means “take off your big bulky gloves so you can go punch an opposing player” – so I hope that’s not also what it means here.

      Reply
      1. SarahKay*

        Labouring would usually involve sturdy gloves as hand protection. Since Bob the Builder referenced day labouring jobs, my guess would be that it’s actually just an equivalent to ‘down tools and walk off the job’ as soon as they’re told they’re being let go.

        Reply
      2. Bob the Builder*

        Actually, I just realized after I wrote it could be understood both ways. I was after the ”drop the tools” but as said, labourers don’t have tools usually, maybe a boxcutter and a squeegie (imagine a broom but with a squeegie end, actual brooms are forbidden by safety elves).

        Then again, remembering a few lads the boss told to make themselves scarce giving some lip in the morning toolbox talk, the hockey ”dropping gloves” comes close.

        Reply
  12. Holy Moses*

    “Ensuring they feel treated fairly and with dignity also happens to be the best way to prevent violence.”

    This is a terrible, victim-blaming take, and linking it not to peer-reviewed research but to your own blog is a stunningly bad look.

    Reply
    1. Snark No More!*

      Could you expand on the reasons you think the remark is victim blaming? And Alison frequently links to her own blog, not peer-reviewed articles because it’s, you know, an advice column…

      Reply
    2. Harper the Other One*

      Alison didn’t say that treating employees with fairness and dignity eliminates the possibility of violence, or that organizations that experience incidents of violence must treat their employees terribly, so I don’t really see the victim blaming here. And she was directly countering the idea that firing people by phone outside of working hours is a violence prevention technique, when the majority of advice from OSHA, the Department of Labor, and other experts highlights the need for care and empathy during firing instead.

      Reply
    3. Chilipepper*

      The FBI and OSHA literally say that to prevent the workplace violence that comes from disgruntled employees is to treat employees with dignity. This is from an FBI report called, Workplace Violence.

      They say, have a prevention and training program, support victims of domestic abuse and stalking, dont punish them, and get outside help if you see warning signs. And I’m quoting this part:
      ” • Adopting and practicing fair and consistent disciplinary procedures.
      • Fostering a climate of trust and respect among workers and between employees and management.”

      So I think Alison is spot on.

      Reply
      1. JohannaCabal*

        This makes sense. I’m reminded of a situation, I think in the early ’90s, where a disgruntled employee shot and killed their manager. One of the newspaper articles quoted other staff who basically said they thought the manager had it coming and deserved it. I remember reading that article and thinking how toxic that company must have been for staff to feel that way.

        Reply
    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Interesting. That’s really not how I understood that; I think victim-blaming has to involve shifting the blame onto individuals. This reads more like a commentary on systemic issues.

      Reply
      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m going to learn how to make dumplings to send to you for this comment because that…was brilliant.

        Reply
    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      This isn’t victim blaming. It’s acknowledging human nature. People who feel they were treated fairly and that someone listened to them and took the time to explain the situation are far less likely to get angry and violent. Will doing this stop someone determined to commit a violent act? No, of course not, but such irrational people are not the benchmark.

      In my long time workplace, people would be called into a meeting explaining why they were being let go. Most of the time, they’d be given a notice period where they were expected to clear up any outstanding work, but they were also told that they would be paid for the notice if they didn’t want to come in to the office anymore. People felt respected, and acted like the professionals the were assumed to be. When new management came in, they told us we were crazy for allowing this and they took to firing people over the phone while they were on vacation. They’d deactivate their IDs and lock them out of email before the people were told what was happening. Would you care to guess how this affected the morale everyone in the workplace? People were constantly on edge and defensive, The entire place felt like a powder keg.

      General guidelines for letting people go are doing it in person in the afternoon at the end of the workweek so the person has time to go home and sort things out. Most people rise to an occasion when treated like a rational adult. That’s all Alison is saying.

      Reply
      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Way back, when dinosaurs coded in assembly language, I worked for a firm that had a really good atmosphere. Even if you were fired there was plenty of warnings and compassion and clarity of information and we only saw one person who got seriously angry, but he’d been arrested as well as fired (not going into details, I investigated the IT side of it and it still makes me sick).

        Then another firm took us over. In the first year they had a brilliant idea of firing the bottom X% of performing workers in one day. Each person who was to be fired would be called into a meeting room and given their P45. That whole day no work got done, we were all sat at our desks scared beyond belief of our names being called.

        Nobody ever worked there happily again, the fear was always there.

        Reply
        1. Colette*

          I once worked for a company that decided they would fire the lowest performing 5% every year. It didn’t take long before people realized that the solution was to hire poor performers so that they’d be the ones fired.

          Reply
          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            That’s…..actually on evil genius levels. Still evil and wrong to have such a policy of course but I can sort of admire the malicious compliance that people used to work around it.

            Reply
    6. Nia*

      I dont disagree that firing people over the phone isn’t going to prevent violence either. The type of person who’s going to get violent is going to get violent regardless of how you treat them.

      Reply
      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m…confused then as to your comment since nobody in the post or in the comments has suggested being nice stops mass shooters.

        Reply
          1. Lance*

            And you can… but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% effective, because nothing is going to be. You seem to be taking the point to something of an unfair extreme.

            Reply
          2. Database Developer Dude*

            You shouldn’t have to take extra steps to prevent violence at work, though.

            Reply
      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        On a micro level, I think you’re absolurely right.

        But on a macro level, there is a lot of reason to believe that systemic issues do perpetuate violence. I think Alison was referring to systemic issues, rather than individuals, if I’m reading her correctly.

        Reply
      3. Natalie*

        That’s simply untrue. There’s a ton of research on de-escalation and how that can prevent violence. If specific behaviors can lead someone to not behave violently, it follows that other specific behaviors might lead them to behave violently. Human behavior is extraordinarily situation-dependent.

        I think you’re responding to the idea of “cause” as though it implies moral responsibility, but they’re not the same thing.

        Reply
      4. meyer lemon*

        I don’t think that’s actually true. FBI hostage negotiators use empathy and respect when speaking to people who are on the brink of committing violence because it’s been proven to de-escalate tense situations. Most people, even people who are contemplating extreme behaviour, respond well to respect and poorly to perceived social rejection. That’s not to say that every act of violence could be avoided through kindness alone, but all else being equal, treating others with respect is more likely to mitigate violence than treating them badly.

        Reply
    7. HR Exec Popping In*

      The point is actions can escalate or deescalate behavior. Treating someone well in a bad situation can help deescalate the situation by reducing ill will. Treating someone who is already struggling with mental health issues can potentially result in escalating ill will which could result in violent behavior.

      Reply
    8. RagingADHD*

      There’s a lot of workplace-related violence that isn’t mass shootings. Probably the majority. People throw punches. They break equipment. They slash tires in the parking lot. That’s the kind of thing that can be de-escalated, or headed off. Impulsive reactions to a confrontational or humiliating situation, that happen in the moment.

      Mass shootings are not usually impulsive, they’re planned. A company that habitually treats people with dignity and respect has a better chance of surfacing issues (like an employee that’s being stalked, or an employee with serious mental health problems) and dealing with them in an appropriate way long before someone shows up with a gun.

      Not 100% chance. But a better chance.

      Reply
    9. Myrin*

      Funnily enough, I read several articles and two studies about this just yesterday (completely randomly; as they say, I fell down an internet rabbit hole).
      Psychologist Jillian Peterson and sociologist James Densley, both professors in criminology, worked on a study for over two years wherein they looked for shared characteristics of American mass shooters from 1966 until today and found four main ones. One of those was defined as “Anger over a recent event, resulting in feelings of suicidality”.

      To quote Reader’s Digest, which has, despite its cliché title, an IMO very comprehensive article on the topic:

      “Nearly every mass shooter Peterson and Densley studied had a specific, identifiable point of crisis in the weeks and/or months before the shooting, which resulted in them becoming angry and despondent. According to the authors, relationship rejection or loss often played a role in the shooter’s life prior to the attack.”

      So it doesn’t actually seem like the person who is prone to violence is going to be violent regardless of how you treat them, at least not necessarily. But I find it very believable that a cold, distand, and abrupt firing could trigger a person who has the background most shooters seem to share moreso than one carried out with dignity and fairness.

      Reply
    10. I'm just here for the cats!*

      And how many work places shootings have we heard about recently where the person was a former employee. Just by firing someone over the phone does not lesson the chance of violence. I would say it increases it because they would have been treated badly (or perceived as being treated badly).

      Reply
    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Literally, experts on preventing workplace violence suggest treating people with respect and dignity as a way to minimize the likelihood of violence. The FBI suggests it. This isn’t something I made up; it’s commonly discussed when the topic of preventing violence comes up. That doesn’t mean that every time there is violence, the person was treated badly.

      The link is to letter on a related topic, as most links in my columns are.

      Reply
  13. Venus*

    LW3: I agree with Alison that you can’t do much in this situation. I wanted to add that these problems in the elderly can be related to medication side effects or infections, such as UTIs. It can also be dementia, of course, but when possible it is good to suggest a visit to the doctor because there are many problems that can be fixed.

    Reply
    1. Reba*

      From the letter it’s not clear if the writer’s boss has done anything to pass on the concern to their counterpart in the client org (the letter writer may not know and that’s fine).

      I wonder if, as this continues, the LW could point out kindly, “hey there has been a pattern of these mistakes, is there someone else there who can check over your submissions before you send them?” Unfortunately there is a lot of stigma around dementia. But I think pointing out the issues, not making any suggestions about the causes, is probably in the bounds of the professional relationship.

      There may be ways that this person’s job could be modified to allow them to stay in their meaningful work in some way, but of course it’s not up to the LW to suggest them.

      Reply
      1. OP3*

        Hi, OP3 here. We did work something out that she has a backup at the org, so for larger, time sensitive things that person seems to be involved. It’s the day to day work that is causing an issue.

        I’m not sure if my manager passed the concerns along; I do trust that if it was the right moment he would. He has more of a relationship with the communities and would be in a better position to do so.

        Thank you both so much for these comments.

        Reply
        1. RunShaker*

          depending on your manager & procedures, you can call adult protective services. I’m in financial industry & work closely with clients. We’ve had to call for some of our elderly clients for well check.

          Reply
  14. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    OP, if the only options are to pay for the surgery yourself because you don’t want to risk your boss finding out what the surgery is for, or submitting the expenses and then lying and feeling weird about it, always wondering if he’ll find out, I think you should pay for the surgery yourself. If you submit the expenses, he’s going to have the doctor’s name and can easily find them online if he wants to.

    Maybe the third option is to have an open discussion with your boss, although it sounds like you don’t want to divulge anything. I know lots of people don’t want to share they’re having weight loss surgery because some people are really judgmental about it and that’s for you to decide. I had weight loss surgery in 2013. Depending on which surgery you’re having, how much weight you need to lose, and how well you’re following the post-op guidelines, you’re likely going to be shedding a lot of weight in a short amount of time, like six months. Will your boss notice and ask about it? How would you explain it if you’re not willing to share you had the surgery? If you decide to tell him, keep in mind that weight loss surgery is a tool just like any other. How you use it determines how well the tool works for you. You’re adding a tool that will help you achieve a goal, which is weight loss and probably better health. There’s nothing wrong with obtaining the tools you need to get the job done.

    Reply
    1. pretzelgirl*

      I sort of thought this as well. If you say “stomach issues” and you end up loosing a lot of weight quickly, he may put 2 and 2 together.

      Reply
      1. Evan Þ.*

        Or maybe he might put it together in a completely wrong way and think you’re seriously ill.

        Reply
    2. foolofgrace*

      One assumes that LW would be out of the office for a while for the surgery and post-op; if she does this and doesn’t submit any requests for deductible payments, I would think the boss would wonder why.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes. The time needed to recover varies a lot from person to person and you don’t know how long it will take until you have the surgery. I would have been fine to return to the office after maybe one week or so, but I was between jobs so I didn’t have to think about that. It was actually good I was unemployed because I had to overhaul my lifestyle, eating habits, eating schedule, etc. Someone I know was out for three weeks and probably needed more time but couldn’t.

        Reply
      2. Observer*

        Well, the boss is ALREADY asking questions. But it’s a lot easier for the OP to say “I don’t really want to discuss it” if the boss is not paying the deductible and co-pay.

        Reply
  15. Harper the Other One*

    LW1: I can understand why you feel awkward, but I’d be surprised if your boss goes so far as to look up the specialities of every doctor’s name you submit. If this is the normal procedure, I’d just submit the out of pocket part as usual.

    That said, I think this would be a good opportunity to talk to your boss about setting up an alternative arrangement like some of the other commenters mentioned, like a health account he pays into for you or hiring a third party to review your submissions. You won’t be the only employee forever, and this setup could be much more comfortable (and less boundary blurring) for you!

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

      I can see this happening. I think I remember a letter from a while back where the boss found out the doctor and figured out what the LW was going for. I think it was here but could have been another site

      Reply
  16. Allypopx*

    #4 I work with retirement age volunteers who still use a decades old alumni email, I don’t think twice about it!

    Reply
  17. Barb*

    It’s really unclear to me why weight loss surgery is being discussed here as any different from any other surgical procedure someone’s doctor recommends.

    It’s not shameful and it’s not cosmetic. It’s a serious surgery intended to improve a serious medical condition. There is no reason why the LW’s medical reimbursement should be any different than for any other medical expense.

    It may be controversial (apparently it is), and I certainly understand why the LW doesn’t want to discuss it with the boss, but they have just as much right to have this covered financially as any other medical expense.

    It’s unfortunate that the current set-up seems to require some degree of disclosure of private medical information. Will the money really be withheld if the LW doesn’t tell what it’s for?

    My advice would be to see if something can be done about that, if there is HR or some other way to manage the funds.

    Reply
    1. Allypopx*

      It’s being discussed because of the set up. OP specifies it’s a two-person firm, so it’s HIGHLY unlikely there’s HR. I think OP can keep dodging, but the boss may find out in many other ways > knowing the name of the doctor, deducing when the weight loss happens, accidental disclosure from a mutual acquaintance, who knows. I don’t think anyone is advocating for this kind of setup, but given the reality and the fact OP is concerned enough about the specific surgery to write in, it’s relevant.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC*

        I suspected what surgery it was when my deputy came and said she’d need time off for a surgery and recovery, and that it wasn’t life-threatening, so I didn’t need to worry, but it was just something she needed to have done.
        The fact that she DIDN’T give more info was a big clue. I of course never brought it up ever, not even when she started losing weight. But that thinner face was confirmation.

        I personally am not judgmental about it and have seen several people have their lives changes as a result of it. I don’t know that she was worried about me, particularly. BUT…her reticence and discretion told me what atmosphere she wanted surrounding it. So, I said nothing to anyone.

        Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s really unclear to me why weight loss surgery is being discussed here as any different from any other surgical procedure someone’s doctor recommends.

      The reason is right there in the question: I know people can be super judgmental about weight loss surgery, and I suspect he’d be one of them.

      Reply
      1. Barb*

        I get that people can be judgmental, I was just surprised to see what seemed to be some of that judgment in the comments here.

        If the surgery was for almost anything else, I don’t think I’d see anyone suggesting the LW eat the cost of the copay.

        But perhaps I’m misunderstanding, and it’s really just about avoiding the conversation with the boss.

        Reply
        1. WellRed*

          It’s because the OP is raising the issue themselves and within this arrangement, they have to figure our what works best for them.

          Reply
        2. Pocket Mouse*

          I think what you’re seeing in the comments is a recognition of how extremely unkind people (and society) can be to fat people. As Alison and others note, it’s not a question of whether this cost should be covered under the arrangement—it should—but rather a question of whether disclosing any additional info about the surgery will make OP’s professional life so much worse that it outweighs the $3,000 they stand to be reimbursed.

          Reply
        3. meyer lemon*

          I think it falls under a fairly wide umbrella of health care that some people can be judgmental about, which is a problem in this situation because the boss has made himself the arbiter of LW’s health care. I can imagine many other types of health care that most people wouldn’t want their boss to meddle in: fertility treatments, gender-affirming health care, breast reduction surgery, etc. This whole set-up is very weird.

          Reply
        4. Observer*

          If the surgery was for almost anything else, I don’t think I’d see anyone suggesting the LW eat the cost of the copay.

          Nope. It’s the same conversation. This kind of thing has come up in various ways before. Alison is quite clear – the cost most definitely SHOULD be covered, but the OP needs to figure out what level of risk and fallout they are willing to deal with.

          Meyer Lemon gives some examples of other treatments where this might come up. We’ve also seen letters where bosses weigh in on surgery in general, mental health treatment, etc.

          Reply
        5. Beth*

          The reality is, some medical procedures come with intense social judgements because they touch on identities and ways of living that people judge harshly.

          Weight loss surgery is one of these because people judge fatness extremely harshly. OP has suggested that her boss is someone who’s likely to be judgmental about it, and he has a lot of power over them, so there is potential for sharing their surgery plans to cause problems for them. That means yeah, people are agreeing that OP should consider alternatives to getting the boss involved. It’s not about us thinking it would be wrong to bill by the normal method, so much as understanding that OP has multiple crappy choices and acknowledging that sometimes money is the cheapest way to pay to fix a problem.

          It’s not true that ‘almost anything else’ wouldn’t have this same issue, though. A transphobic boss would likely have issues with funding an employee’s gender affirming healthcare. A pro-life boss might resist paying for a woman’s birth control, abortion, or sterilization. It doesn’t even have to be big political topics; a risk-averse employer might feel put out at having to cover an employee’s hang gliding injury. A lot of health care does connect to personal values, and in an arrangement like OP’s (where their boss is unusually heavily involved in their medical care), there are a ton of ways that that could lead to conflict.

          Reply
      2. Mental Lentil*

        Thank you. I sometimes think people are in such a rush to comment that they don’t actually read the letter thoroughly and skip over some of the details.

        Reply
    3. Lexie*

      It’s discussed differently because there are those who believe it’s taking the easy way out, that the person should have just been disciplined enough to eat less and exercise more. They simply don’t understand there’s more to it than that.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oh, definitely. I heard that from several people after I had the surgery. (Another favorite is “My son lost his on his own.” Um, OK. So I did absolutely nothing to produce a positive outcome for myself.) It’s actually a last resort for many people and it’s definitely not the easy way out.

        In regard to the letter, for me it boils down to this: the OP needs to decide if their desire for privacy outweighs their desire or need for reimbursement. Only they can decide that. Sure they can lie to the boss, but why waste all that energy afterwards worrying if the boss will find out?

        Reply
        1. fposte*

          Yes, it’s putting a literal price on her medical privacy. That’s unfortunate, but I suspect a lot of people would consider $3k a fair price for sharing the fact of a surgery, given that most of us tell people about them for free.

          Reply
    4. Observer*

      It’s not shameful and it’s not cosmetic. It’s a serious surgery intended to improve a serious medical condition. There is no reason why the LW’s medical reimbursement should be any different than for any other medical expense.

      Your first 2 sentences are correct. The third one is only somewhat related to reality.

      The OP has already made it clear that their boss IS probably going to have Opinions about the surgery, and those Opinions are likely to be negative. Given the nature of the setup, it’s quite likely that the Boss *will* allow those Opinions to affect whether he agrees to reimburse the co-pays. And even if he does reimburse, he’s likely to give the OP a hard time.

      It shouldn’t be that way. But we know it is. Too many bosses stick their noses where they don’t belong. Too many bosses think they have a right to weigh in on decisions that are absolutely NOT their place to weigh in on.

      My advice would be to see if something can be done about that, if there is HR or some other way to manage the funds.

      This is a 2 person firm. No HR.

      Reply
  18. Martin*

    #2 My first thought was that this policy was introduced as a response to an actual incident at this conmany where someone responded to a layoff with violence.

    Reply
    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      That thought crossed my mind. But I still think there are better ways of handling it because there’s so many ways it could go wrong – for one thing, there could be any number of reasons why they couldn’t get through, for another as has been said in other comments people might not believe it…there’s bound to be more.

      Reply
  19. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    I wouldn’t think twice about a school email if it came to me.

    A word of warning, though. Frequently, those emails can be de-activated after a certain period of time. Sometimes, without notice (in my case, it was a random day about 2 years after I left grad school).

    Reply
  20. Rusty Shackelford*

    If you knew you were going to be fired, couldn’t you just stop answering your phone after work and thus drag it out forever?

    I love this so much.

    Reply
    1. Trying my best and hoping it's enough*

      SAME! I read that line twice because it made me literally guffaw. The accuracy. I have known several people who would actually employ that tactic for as long as it took to wear them down and attempt to fire a different way!

      Reply
  21. Jennifer*

    #2 As Alison said, if you are too cowardly to fire someone face to face, eventually people are going to start outsmarting them by just not answering the phone at night. This entire policy is doomed and I pray it doesn’t become a trend elsewhere.

    Reply
  22. CC*

    The boss who pays 100% for healthcare sounds like my kind of job! But yeah I would just submit it and see what happens

    Reply
  23. INFJedi*

    #2 I’m wondering here what would happen if the (to-be-fired) employee doesn’t answer their phone in the evening.

    ** Monday evening
    Phone call from unknown / anonymous number: ‘Nah. Not taking that call’

    ** Tuesday morning
    (Should-be-fired-by-now) Employee arrives at work and manager’s eyes huge
    (Should-be-fired-by-now) Employee: Hey boss, got anything for me to do?
    Manager: Eh yes… wait… Eh.. you know what? go get your morning coffee first… * Frantically starts calling HR *

    Reply
      1. Elenna*

        Or they could recognize the number but not take the call because they know their company has that stupid policy…

        Reply
      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I have 100% had jobs were I would not answer my phone on my days off or before or after shifts. Usually because those places were trying to get you to work early/late/on your day off. But if those places had tried to fire me that way I’d have never answered the phone anyway.

        Reply
  24. Cat*

    #4, I would go ahead and make the switch to gmail.
    – As others have pointed out, schools can and do shut off alumni use.
    – You can set up your school address to auto-forward to your gmail if you want to ensure you don’t miss anything.
    – Maybe it’s a psychological thing but continuing to use an undergrad-focused email for “adult” life would make me feel too “stuck” in college years?

    Reply
    1. Allypopx*

      The last point is probably a personal thing, and I’m not sure it would bother me – but it sounds like it IS bothering the OP! If it’s bugging you, OP, definitely just make the switch. Not a big deal. A fresh, spam free email can be nice!

      Reply
    2. Reba*

      I also have this psychological thing! I know that it is in NO way a big deal — and I work with students and new grads quite a bit so I do see these email domains regularly — but I *personally* would feel weird about sort of prolonging my association with the universities… Or something. I don’t know, I’m also not a joiner and not very school spirited to say the least.

      I will say that in some cases the school domain can make your email slightly more memorable, which is very very slightly convenient for me (again emailing with young people from across the country), like I’m looking for Emily from State U and do not have to examine all the various Emily’s gmails.

      But again, for me personally, I wouldn’t really want people thinking “oh Reba from State U!” going forward.

      Then again, maybe if my email options were more prestigious than State U I’d feel differently ;)

      Anyway, I have a zombie email from one of my alma maters. It was turned off, but they had used Google for business and I have a personal Gmail that was linked and things still show up now and again, but I can’t fix it because no more login. The other alma mater has actually changed its domain, and I’m glad I didn’t have to go through that migration!

      Reply
    3. JHB*

      There’s been a big push for YEARS by some of the universities to offer “email for life”. In my case, my husband and I only adopted the school-branded email years after graduating during a big campaign to alumni. (So it actually wan’t what I’d used as student.) This branding push was 15-20 years ago when Gmail wasn’t as popular and people had to change email address if they changed internet provider. So that was part of the draw – “never have to change email again”. Now, they just encourage students and employees to retain the address forever.

      In my job, I deal with a number of subscription events that are only open to employees of public sector, inclusive of the state universities. For the last several years, we can no longer tell at a glance if the respondent is an employee if using a university address. (Student version used to be slightly different. ) Now, they really push the brand – student, current employee, former employee, alumn – they all use the same format.

      Reply
  25. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-It’s not unprofessional but it’s probably easier to set up an account with gmail or something else. Many colleges are moving towards shortening the length of time you can use that account. Or you could be in my sister’s situation who used her work email for everything include her FB login but that was 3 jobs ago and now she’s locked out of FB completely. I’m slowly working on my mom transitioning all her non-work stuff from the work email she’s used for 20+ years. All of her shopping, medical etc are with her work email and she gets so much junk mail which makes her work email that much more difficult to manage.

    Reply
    1. Smithy*

      Uff….my mom’s one and only ever email address has been her work address that she’s had for 20 years if not longer. She keeps on asking me to help her set up another email address and then puts it off, but with her retirement looming in the coming years…..it’s just clearly going to be a beast of a task.

      Reply
        1. Smithy*

          I hope on the plus side that because my mom is a touch of a luddite, she has maintained all of her banking and bills via paper and snail mail, there are some areas of documentation that are alright.

          But she has emailed with personal lawyers and accountants, so there’s figuring out what communication to preserve there. And then literally every email my dad ever sent her (who’s passed away) would be on that account. Sigh…..this is a project I need to bring up with her again this summer. I’m giving myself the willies.

          Reply
          1. Ginger Baker*

            It took me about two weeks to get through about 43,000 emails in the same way (including also changing every linked account to New Email) when BossMan left the firm he had been at for about 20 years. Note, he had done some cleanup on his own beforehand. I used a LOT of Search for [client name, etc.] and didn’t try to clean up anything in terms of “do I actually need to KEEP this” on the theory that unlike paper files, it was okay to leave extra that were just “thanks!” emails if it saved my sanity in the process. Good luck!!

            Reply
  26. Fabulous*

    #2 – I’ve been “fired” this way before. Not technically fired because I was a temp, but I had applied for a permanent position and hadn’t gotten it. HR called me on my office phone on a Friday around 2-3pm to tell me I did not get the job, but I had (I guess, naively) assumed that I would just continue on as a temp, which was fine by me.

    We had offices on 2 floors and needed a key card to go between them, so I had realized that my keycard stopped working that afternoon, but it had been on the fritz so it was nothing new for it to not work right. I finished out the work day, took out the office mail, and then later that night about 7pm, I got a phone call on my cell from my manager that my temp contract was terminated. Like, wtf?! I had been there for about a year by then so I had STUFF in the office!

    Totally not a good way of doing business, but that company was “meh” in a few other ways too so I was ultimately glad to not be there anymore.

    Reply
  27. Rachel*

    #2. I work for a temporary staffing company and almost 100% of terminations are done over the phone. The client will email or call us that they don’t want the employee returning and then we call the employee after shift and let them know.
    In all other jobs, terminations were face to face, but I really prefer the phone call. I’ve had people get very angry and have felt threatened (nothing physical ever happened, thankfully) and think the phone serves as a good barrier.

    Reply
    1. irene adler*

      We (the client) had a temp who did not believe their staffing company when they informed him via phone that he was terminated.

      He’d been working for us for a month or so, and he just didn’t fit in. Didn’t like reporting to a female boss (me)- said so himself. Was unhappy we did not make him a manager when we learned that he possessed a master’s degree. And items around the company started to go missing during his time with us (a jacket, a calculator, my wallet, a co-worker’s prized gold tone spoon used for their coffee). Never had a theft problem before or since.

      So he shows up for work and immediately tells me about the “odd” phone call he’d received last night and how he absolutely did not believe the staffing agency when they told him the assignment had ended. He’d insisted that they were mistaken. Surely we weren’t terminating HIM, right?

      So he makes like he’s going to proceed with the work tasks for the day. I have to tell him to please leave. The assignment is over. Only he won’t go. He demands an explanation as to why we terminated him. He’s “wound a bit too tight” so I figure I won’t go into the issues we actually had with him. I tell him we had a budget cut-yesterday. He actually buys this and heads out the door. Whew!

      Reply
  28. blink14*

    OP#1 – Submit the cost to your boss. I have a relative that owns a small business, and because of the astronomical health insurance costs in that state, they have a similar situation set up for all of their employees. It’s actually far more affordable for the company, and it’s employees, to provide a high deductible plan with the arrangement that the company covers the deductible (I believe it’s $5,000 for a single person, and around $7,000 for a family plan). It’s no questions asked – an employee submits the required paperwork, and the cost is covered.

    I think the thing here is to be as vague as possible, and put the pressure of a correct response on your boss. This is his arrangement, let him stand by that and provide coverage. He knows there’s going to be a deductible, be upfront about it to hopefully lessen any questions and curiosity. If you don’t submit for reimbursement, he may ask even more questions because he’ll be waiting for you to submit that amount. I do find it interesting that he covers co-pays as well.

    Reply
  29. Machiamellie*

    #1 – if you decide not to tell him, it’s going to be pretty obvious when you start shrinking after the surgery. Then if you hedged and said “stomach surgery” he might be annoyed or even angry that you weren’t truthful.

    I personally would probably try something like, “I’m having this surgery because my doctor told me I should. It’s going to use my whole deductible of $3000. If you’d prefer, I’m happy to enter an arrangement of payment instead of the $3000 up front” and get that in writing.

    It’s a tough situation to be in and I understand why you’re anxious about it. He sounds exhausting. But this isn’t the climate of lots of jobs available if you chose to leave.

    Wishing you much luck! My own gastric bypass is on Friday.

    Reply
  30. Pocket Mouse*

    #1 – One thing to think about is whether *not* submitting for reimbursement now that your boss knows you’re having surgery will make it weird too. He must be aware that any surgery would have some cost that falls to you, that he’d (generally speaking) expect to reimburse per the arrangement. Would questions arise or the dynamic change if you didn’t do something that would typically be expected? I’d hate for you to be out $3,000 and still have to deal with skewed perceptions at work.

    I’m sorry your boss put you in this position, and I’m sending you good vibes and best wishes for your surgery and after!

    Reply
  31. Jester*

    I had something similar as #2 happen to me. I was working part-time and from home due to COVID. The work phone was forwarded to my cell phone. I got six phone calls with a work extension after hours on a day I don’t work. I didn’t pick up because my hours were very strict, but I did log on to the work email to just check if something was going down. Nothing. No voicemails either. The next morning seconds after I clocked in, I get another phone call from the same extension, and this time I answer. It was the head of the department calling to laid me off. Apparently, she had been messaging my supervisor the night before stressing because I wasn’t picking up. No kidding! I was told explicitly not to answer the work calls when I wasn’t clocked in. A simple voicemail identifying the phone number would have worked great.

    Reply
  32. Someone with 8 emails*

    LW#4 – Lots of people have already brought up really great points about your college email address. I get the feeling that your email is one provided to you as an undergrad and not as an alum. While its not terrible, often times college and university emails and user names have turned into an alphanumeric mishmash that means something to the university only. Sometimes, an alumni email address through your alum relations office may be able to give you something more identifiable to a firstname.lastname@university.alum.edu. This can also make it a little easier for the companies you apply to NOT mess up your email and accidentally mistype it.

    Reply
  33. Raine*

    I can one-up #2: About fifteen years ago, my husband was working a temp contract with a local gas company. He’d left work for the day and was driving home when *I* got a phone call. I took the call and it was the gas company, calling me to say that they were ending his contract (he’d finished all the work months ahead of schedule, apparently) and he wasn’t to come in again. Since he was driving, they couldn’t reach him, so they’d called *me* in order to fire him. So this kind of behavior isn’t new, and it can definitely be worse. x__x;

    Reply
    1. pancakes*

      Very unprofessional and silly on their part. What would they do with an unmarried employee, send someone out to chase after them?

      Reply
      1. Person from the Resume*

        I think they called his home phone number 15 years ago when cell phones were still not ubiquitous. When his spouse said that he wasn’t home, they should have left a message for him to call back. Passing on the message that the contract was ending to someone not involved in the business contract was not right.

        Reply
  34. ProdMgr*

    OP1 – your boss should be budgeting to cover your insurance plan’s deductible and out of pocket max if that’s what he’s agreed to. You don’t want him involved in your medical decisions and he probably doesn’t want to be involved either.

    How do you two interact at work? If you spend time together in person and sometimes have meals together, it’ll be hard to hide that you’ve had weight loss surgery. Your appearance will change and you’ll be making different food choices.

    Also, assuming you have a good relationship, he hopefully asked about your time off for surgery because he was concerned about you as a person, not concerned about your medical bills.

    Reply
  35. StoneColdJaneAusten*

    LW#3 – Emailing this person back to tell them that she didn’t e-mail it to the right place without forwarding the e-mail seems like it’s going to get in the way of the other team getting its work done. I’d just CC them on the email you’re sending back to her. That would seem to be literally no added effort.

    Reply
    1. Knightdream*

      That depends what the LW’s primary goal is. The primary goal appears to be to get the person to send the emails to the correct place.

      Reply
    2. OP3*

      OP here: The other team doesn’t rely on her for their work; them not getting her email only affects her. I did cc the first few, and send them along.

      Reply
      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Is there any way to handle the Morning Team/Afternoon Team e-mail split internally? Someone who seems to be undergoing a mental decline might appreciate not having to remember which e-mail to use.

        That doesn’t solve all the other problems, of course. But the client is probably even more frustrated with their decline than you are, and removing one source of that frustration could be a kindness.

        Reply
  36. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#3 — first off, I think you’re a very kind-hearted person. It’s frustrating not to be able to help. But Alison’s right. You were right to report this to your manager, but your own options are limited. Be polite and courteous in your interactions with this person, forward email to the correct address, and keep your manager in the loop on any further changes that affect your work.

    Reply
    1. OP3*

      OP here: Thank you, I appreciate that. I think that’s my only real way forward. I hate seeing someone potentially in distress, and not really being able to do anything, but I guess I did my due diligence.

      Reply
      1. Smithy*

        If I understand your email correct, is there perhaps anyone else at the NGO that you could copy in response to this person? Whether it’s the NGO’s executive director or another person on that team? The email might just be a case of “as a reminder, this email address is for AM correspondence, and X email is for PM correspondence” – but having someone else from the person’s employer looped to have greater oversight of the confusion or decline might be in another position to do something?

        Reply
      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        OP3 We had a coworker that was showing clear signs of dementia at work. Not knowing where the bathroom was in a building we had been in for years. Wandering the hallways with a dazed look on her face. My grandma had dementia and I had been a caregiver so it was very obvious to see the signs. Several people approached HR/Managers repeatedly and got a “we can’t do anything” response. I’m guessing they were afraid of medical information/right to privacy issues. One day she was just completely out of it. The more concerned coworkers went to management and made them call coworkers adult son and make him aware that she was in no condition to be at work or to drive home. I know the concerns got passed to adult son and at that point we really couldn’t do anything more unless we say something over the line like the day she was just out of it. Most days you’d just remind her where the bathroom/her cubicle was and move on with your day. (I can only imagine what her work was like) She had good days and bad days. Eventually she finally retired.

        Reply
  37. JHB*

    #4 One other thing (not job search-related), verify there are no account restrictions before you commit yourself to the address. My husband and I are alums of a major university that offers “email for life: “Never change your email again; showcase your life-long affiliation with this great university…”

    Except, it turns out – even though it has a version of the university name as the domain – in reality, it’s a branded, LIMITED Gmail (Google) account. Limited in that it can only be used for email.

    Normally, when you log in to your Google account (whether you use a regular Gmail address or 3rd party), you have access to all the products: Google Maps, Google Docs, YouTube, Google Groups, etc. But with our university limited account, we can only use Gmail. It’s a royal pain as I’ve been using this as primary email for years, long before Google was as popular as it is now. It’s well established as my primary. But if I want to use any other Google products as more than a guest, I need to access them with a different account. (Yeah, I keep thinking I’ll migrate away from this address…)

    So while your university address should have no impact on your job search (school pride!), makes sure it’s not hamstringing you elsewhere.

    Reply
  38. Khatul Madame*

    I don’t see the dilemma in the OP 1’s situation.

    OP can request reimbursement and disclose the situation to the boss.
    Or, they can keep the nature of their surgery private from the boss, and pay the expenses out of own pocket.

    Reply
    1. D3*

      The dilemma is choosing between those and considering the professional implications of each choice, I don’t understand how you can outline it so clearly and yet still not get it.

      Reply
      1. Khatul Madame*

        You mean whether the OP will be able to stay at this job post surgery? Yes, there is a chance of conflict, so the OP needs to plan for a negative turn of events.
        I do think that the conflict and “break-up” is unlikely, given that the OP describes the boss as “progressive”.
        I would rather characterize this relationship as paternalistic, like the old-time companies took care of employees by providing housing, medical care, schools and commissaries – which was great, until one wasn’t an employee anymore.

        Reply
  39. Great Company you should trust*

    The thought of #2 never picking up the phone after work if they don’t know who it is or they know it’s the office makes me laugh. It’s total payback for this crappy procedure. How long will it take before they finally break down and do it in person?

    Reply
  40. Database Developer Dude*

    LW3: I got laid off from a job by email the morning after the contract ended. Companies do this. Stay away from staffing companies, they’re trash.

    Reply
  41. TootsNYC*

    A previous boss asked me to give her a subordinate’s reference when she was applying for a job to be the top manager of a particular operation inside a company. I was a good choice, because she’d had to goose me on something (lateness, probably; I don’t remember), so I could talk about how she handled it when an employee needed correcting. She was also very encouraging, and good at setting goals and expectations in general, so I could say lots of good things about her.

    Plus, I give good reference.
    She got the job.

    Reply
  42. SpaceySteph*

    OP1, I want you to consider another aspect– if all goes well (and I certainly hope it does) you will likely drop weight very quickly and very noticeably. Even more so for someone who has known you for many years and seen you struggle with your weight in the past. You will need to be prepared for questions about how you are able to lose the weight, which inevitably will cause people to wonder about your “stomach thing” surgery.

    I’d recommend considering how you intend to explain or brush off those questions– if you come to the conclusion that you’ll likely tell people about it once the weight loss becomes obvious, then you would probably be better off disclosing it now in a matter-of-fact way and hoping your boss will take cues from you on not being nosey or judgy about it.

    Reply
  43. DKMA*

    LW1 this feels like a “return awkward to sender” situation. Your boss has set up a generous, but weird, health insurance set up for you. You are getting surgery that is covered by insurance. Just submit the paperwork, label it bariatric surgery, and don’t talk about it much and as matter of factly as possible when you do.

    There is nothing to be ashamed of for getting the surgery. Asking for reimbursement is squarely within your health insurance arrangement. Most likely he’s going to pay it without saying anything, because what would you say? If he does say anything, just tell him it was recommended by your doctor. Health insurance doesn’t approve procedures that are not medically justified, you don’t need to justify it to your boss beyond that.

    Reply
  44. Girasol*

    #3 I’m under the impression that in the UK there is a public service that one can call about an elder about whom one is concerned and say, “I’m worried that so-and-so isn’t coping well.” And then someone is sent out to out to check on them and offer aid as needed. I don’t know much about how that works, or if in the US we have any similar service. Does anyone here know?

    Reply
    1. Rachael*

      This! Some states and cities in the US also have elder protection agencies. It would depend on where the client is.

      Reply
    2. OyHiOh*

      Most places in the US have some sort of “office of aging” type institution as well.

      Sadly, most are underfunded and overworked. I wrote below about a personal experience with this sort of thing; in our case, several different people involved with a declining person’s care have been told Office of Aging won’t step in “unless something happens.” Those of us involved darkly believe that “something” means outright evidence of physical abuse of an elder and/or critical near fatal injury.

      Reply
  45. Absurda*

    #2 – This reminds me of something that happened early in my career, a ton of people were fired via FedEx delivery on a Saturday. Here’s how it went down:

    I worked for a company that went through a hostel takeover. The new company informed us that all employees of the old company would receive a FedEx envelope on the same Saturday. The letter inside would tell us if we fell into one of 3 situations:
    1. Offered a regular job with new company
    2. Offered temporary job with the company to help with the transition
    3. Not offered a job with new company (essentially terminated immediately)

    People were panicked, scrambling to be home stressed all day, people on vacation trying to find someone to get the envelope for them so they’d know if they had a job, etc. I was offered a job and took it, but it was not a great experience.

    Reply
    1. Anonandon*

      A contractor of my company sent everyone home early on a Friday and told them they’d get an email over the weekend informing whether they should come back Monday. They fired about 30% of the workforce in one swoop.

      I get that you have to fire some people, sometimes even a lot of people, due to all kinds of factors… but all of this treating it like the Hunger Games is just terrible.

      Reply
  46. ambivalent*

    For OP5, I’m wondering if it’s a good practice for the manager to offer a ‘manager-reference’ with their employees upfront?

    Reply
  47. esmerelda*

    OP #3, I’m in a similar situation, and I feel for you. A client of mine who I’ve worked with for the 3.5 years I’ve been at the company frequently forgets fairly major things. Lately she’s been forgetting the name of a project we’ve been working on for 3 years, and every few months she forgets that I work on the team and sends a “looking forward to working with you!” email and then inquires about why my predecessor, who left the company in 2017, hasn’t been answering her emails. There are other things, too, but those are the main points of confusion, even after I explain and remind each time she asks. I don’t mind reminding her, that’s not the problem – but I wonder if the client is aware she is doing this. I wonder if she has early onset memory issues or something. I don’t feel I have enough of a relationship with her to gently bring it up – memory and cognitive decline is such a sensitive subject even for someone you are very close with – so… there’s not much I can do without jeopardizing the business relationship. It’s such a hard position to be in. I’m sorry, OP.

    Reply
    1. OP3*

      Thank you for this empathy, and I hope you find a solution that works for everyone. Thinking of you!

      Reply
  48. Jessica Fletcher*

    #3 – If you have access to the older emails that were clearly written, it might be helpful to show your manager a side-by-side comparison, to illustrate how the person’s written communication has deteriorated. If your manager doesn’t work in the email boxes herself, it might help her to understand how drastic the change has been. She might not even be able to do much about it, though, beyond raising it to someone else.

    Reply
    1. JSPA*

      #3, the small letter then all caps makes me think this is just as likely to be a major change in eyesight–that’s what happens if one misses the shift key (thus the small letter to start) then lands on the caps lock. Add failing eyesight (whether that’s macular degeneration or “sat on my only decent pair of glasses and due to Covid did not dare go to the optometrist yet for a new pair”) and you get an all-caps-except-for-first-letter email.

      The other issues can also be eyesight; for example, if they’re used to typing part of the address then selecting the right one from the autocomplete, but can’t see well enough to do that.

      I don’t know that it changes the advice much, but it may change how you feel about the need to intervene. People who have failing eyesight (or desperately need new glasses) are generally quite cognizant of the situation, even if that doesn’t lead to perfect compensation.

      You could try sending some of your email to them set to a larger display font. It’s not offensive–people do that for their own sake, while typing–and it opens the door to them bringing up the topic, if they’re comfortable doing so. (If they’re already using text-to-speech to read it, it makes no difference, and may go un-noticed.)

      Reply
      1. JSPA*

        Also, using speech-to-text for writing emails that you can’t then proofread will produce strange caps and nonsensical strings; trying to edit when you can’t see introduces strange gaps and caps, as well.

        Not that all dementia needs to take the classically recognized form described above by Esmerelda–it can be almost completely language-focused, at first–but dementia would not be my first or only assumption, here.

        Reply
  49. Jennifer Smith*

    I have a very common first and last name (not Jennifer Smith, but you get the idea). As a result, nearly every possible permutation of my email is taken–my email that I’ve used for the last 15 years is something like jesmith16 at gmail. Lately I’ve been getting confused reactions from people when I give them my email, or they’ll tell me they sent me something which never arrives, and it turns out they sent it to jensmith16 or jesmith. I do have a university email address I could use, but I’m nearly 40! Should I use that or try to find an email address that’s easier to remember?

    Reply
    1. SpaceySteph*

      Maybe depends on your school? My husband is mid-30s and still uses his university email. He went to a well known and highly ranked engineering school, so it actually helps rather than hurts when its noticed at all.

      Reply
  50. This is Jeopardy!*

    After having a series of terrible managers, I asked my current manager for a managerial reference during the interview process (I think it was the last one, not early on). She was happy to give it, and everyone that I talked to about her was super kind. I was offered the position and took it, with a 50/50 split between the role and the manager being the deciding factors. She’s a great manager.

    My last two managers would have probably blow their tops had anyone even had the nerve to ask, which would have been telling. One of them has over 10 formal HR complaints, and multiple direct reports have been moved to other teams because they refuse to work for him when they haven’t quit outright and cited him as the direct reason. And he still has not only a job but a managerial role! I would have been pleased to give a review of “RUN” for that one had anyone asked me.

    Reply
  51. llamaswithouthats*

    I may be off the mark, but I relied on using my alumni email when looking for entry level jobs to solidify my branding as “new grad who is eligible for entry level work”. This was probably relevant to my specific industry, but I felt that branding was important. But I don’t see why it would be a bad thing down the road.

    Also, Alison is right about the addresses suddenly shutting down. I had mine for about 5 years and then one day they were like “your email address will be deleted in 1 week”. I was able to set up a forwarding system so that anyone who emails my old address gets redirected to my current one, but it was a bit of and scramble.

    Reply
  52. OyHiOh*

    #3 is relevant to my personal life, not work, and this letter is making me want to offer intrusive advice that probably wouldn’t be appropriate. But here’s the thing, the person I know – literally everyone around them can tell the person has declined significantly, just in the past six or nine months. There are ER notes, notes from doctors, “concerns” brought by caregivers to their employers (person gets X hours of non-medical in home care per day through an agency), friends, etc. Everyone knows this person has declined. Everyone can see the problem. The human in decline has finally been convinced to give a trusted friend permission to manage bill pay because they cannot remember passwords any longer. It took a couple days worth of work for the friend to untangle the mess this human had created in trying to maintain their finances independently. The thing about it is, unless the person LW 3 is concerned about actively reaches out for help, there is surprisingly little that anyone can do about it. Medical and care providing systems in the US are currently based completely around the patient’s consent. If a human can say “yes, I understand” (and is white, well spoken, nicely dressed, etc), even if everyone in the room acknowledges they’re going to forget in half an hour, then the patient’s word goes.

    LW 3, my heart bleeds for you. Your instinct for how this person’s written persona has changed is probably accurate. Assuming you’re in the US, there’s precious little you can do, particularly as a work contact, to intervene and even if you’re not in the US, the answer doesn’t likely doesn’t change much. The person I know can only be persuaded to take tiny baby steps towards appropriate care and management of their condition and that’s with people who have known them for years interceding urgently, many times over.

    Reply
    1. OP3*

      Thank you so much, I appreciate this. I’ll keep communicating with them, and if there’s an opportunity to do anything else, I’ll look for it.

      Reply
  53. LizM*

    OP#4, I went to a state university with a large program for my field, so I get a lot of applicants from my alma mater. It doesn’t bother me, and if nothing else, it’s a conversation starter if they went to the same school.

    Reply
  54. Tomalak*

    Using university emails can look like lame showing off if it’s from a prestigious university (I said look like, not is!). But I can’t imagine it being a deal breaker when deciding who to bring in for interview.

    Reply
  55. Dancing Otter*

    OP1, you have that huge deductible precisely because of the choice your employer made to provide a high-deductible insurance plan. Those plans are usually combined with a medical savings plan, but it appears they didn’t set that up for you, preferring to reimburse you as needed.
    Well, now it’s needed.
    Go ahead and request the reimbursement. They offered you this type of coverage as part of your compensation package. Don’t pass it up.

    I think I would take the explanation of benefits from the insurance company, highlight the line where it shows the $3,000 due for the deductible, plus any additional amount of coinsurance, but black out all the diagnostic codes and such. Your boss doesn’t need (and isn’t entitled) to know what your medical treatment or diagnosis was, just the amount they agreed to pay — namely, the deductible and coinsurance.
    BTW, morbid obesity isn’t a moral failing. There are a number of medical conditions such as PCOS that cause weight gain or that require treatments (e.g., steroids) that cause weight gain. An eating disorder is a psychiatric illness, not a cardinal sin. Get the treatment you need, and don’t listen to anyone trying to guilt you for needing it.

    Reply
  56. cheeky*

    I would not feel comfortable expensing my medical bills, no matter how generous that is. It’s very strange, and I think, inappropriate.

    Reply
  57. Lemon Ginger Tea*

    Re: LW#1– My organization has a similar setup where the premiums are $1/year (literally), and it’s a very high deductible but the org reimburses for everything. The outcome is that we only pay for copays, never deductibles. However, the receipts and reimbursements are handled by a third party company so that there’s no privacy issue with actually submitting my medical bills to someone in my organization. I would hate that. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to suggest something similar.

    Reply
  58. agnes*

    LW #1 I say if your insurance covers it then it’s fair game to be reimbursed, because it’s not considered an elective procedure. (most insurance won’t pay for cosmetic or elective procedures.) This is a health need you have, so I say submit it like everything else.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Before you comment: Please be kind, stay on-topic, and follow the site's commenting rules.
You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS