frequent bathroom visits, putting an out-of-state address on your resume, and more

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

1. Do I need to say anything about my frequent bathroom visits?

I recently started a new job. The people I work with are kind and supportive and it’s been great so far. My team has only three team members, the controller, a staff accountant, and me. We share an office. I take a medication for an endocrine disorder that causes IBS-like symptoms, and I am often running to the bathroom once every hour or so. My bathroom breaks take longer than the average pee break for obvious reasons.

My boss hasn’t said anything about the frequency of my bathroom breaks but I’m used to working on larger teams where my bathroom breaks were not as apparent. There are only three of us and the bathroom is right next to our office. I know everybody poops, but I’m starting to feel self-conscious about how many times I’m in the bathroom during the day because it’s impossible to conceal where I am going when I leave the office. No one has raised an issue with this, but I worry that over time it will give the appearance that I am avoiding work. Not taking the medicine isn’t an option and there are no alternative meds for my condition, so I’m stuck with these digestive issues indefinitely.

Should I proactively approach HR with a doctor’s note explaining the situation and that I need accomodations (for frequent bathroom breaks) due to a medical condition to head off any slacker perception? Or should I wait to see if anyone raises it? This is the first time I’ve worked in a team this small and I’m starting to get embarrassed by my condition, which has never been an issue for me in the past. I need this job and I don’t want anyone to think I’m not a hard worker. What say you?

You can talk to HR if it would give you peace of mind! You don’t even need to go the doctor’s note route yet; just explain that you’re on a medication that requires frequent bathroom breaks, you don’t want it to look like you’re slacking off, and you wonder if they’d recommend getting something official on file. Or you can say something similar to your boss; if she tells you it’s fine, that might be all you need to do.

Alternately, you can leave it alone unless your boss mentions it, but it sounds like you might get some peace of mind from having the conversation so you’re not having to wonder if it’s being noticed and if wrong conclusions are being drawn.

2. Am I overreacting to my coworker’s sexualized comments?

There’s a man who works for the same company, in the same building as me. We’re not based in the same actual office and we have different bosses, but we meet in common areas and he always initiates conversation because we used to work together.

My issue is that he often makes small but sexualized comments that I find distressing. He does rank above me but because we don’t work together, I’ve been brushing it off. For example, earlier today we ran into each other and he asked me about my apartment renovations. I mentioned I was turning one of the rooms into an office and he said I should turn it into a sex dungeon. It was said in a jokey way. Another time, I mentioned watching Bridgerton and he said he started watching it but there weren’t enough “heaving bosoms,” while looking at my chest.

I am aware that he has had two cases brought against him in the past two years for bullying and sexual harassment. I mentioned it to my line manager and she brushed it off, saying he was just a creep. Anyone I’ve spoken to — friends and coworkers — about this hasn’t seem very perturbed. I do have a history of sexual trauma, so I am oversensitive. Am I overreacting? How should I deal with this?

You’re not overreacting. It’s creepy and boundary-crossing for him to keep turning work conversations to sex, and the fact that he’s had complaints against him before says he knows exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t misunderstand what’s appropriate for work or not realize how he’s coming across; he knows and doesn’t care.

Your boss is right that this guy is a creep, but he’s not “just” a creep — he’s someone who should be reported. Talk to HR — and mention that you initially reported it to your boss too, because they should be concerned that she brushed you off.

3. Should I put an out-of-state address on my resume?

I have been trying very unsuccessfully to get a job in my partner’s state. I work in medicine in a position that has a huge disparity in utilization depending on the state. His state is not friendly to my profession (but still has a few schools with the program so the competition continues to get stiffer). My work history is strong. The two areas I’ve worked in have provided me with a well-rounded and desirable (in most states) resume. But I cannot seem to get even an interview there. My friend suggested that I use my partner’s address when applying for jobs. While I’m sure a local address would help (and I’m up there for a quarter of each month), it feels like the wrong move (because, you know, it’s ultimately dishonest). It could be a problem with my resume, but when I have applied for jobs in my state, I don’t seem to have a problem getting an interview at the very least. I’m pretty miserable in my current job and would very much like to decrease the distance between me and my partner, so any advice is appreciated.

Use his address! You’re there a quarter of time; you’re basically splitting your time between the two states while you look for a job so you can move there permanently. Using his address should make your search easier.

Do be aware that if they think you’re local, you might be asked to come in for an interview right away (like within a day or two), and if that’s not feasible for you to do while you’re back in your original state, be prepared to say something like, “I’m in Texas right now — I’m splitting my time between Texas and Minnesota until I can make the move permanently — but I can interview by phone or video tomorrow, or if you prefer in-person, I’m planning to be back there next week.”

The other option is not to put a location on your resume at all, which has become increasingly common.

4. Cover letter plagiarism

I’m currently overseeing talent acquisition and recently noticed that many MANY candidates have taken lines verbatim from the cover letters you’ve shown as exemplars. I started to keep track and currently, for every 16 cover letters I get, I see this line at least once: “I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same.”

I love that your reach is so expansive, but when I see this, it’s an automatic no. I know that you’ve encouraged readers to use their own voice and I just want to echo that. I’d hate for people to be missing out on opportunities because all of us hiring managers also follow your blog. :)

Yeah, every time I share a good cover letter here, I have to warn the writer that it will definitely be plagiarized and copied all over the internet and make sure they’re okay with that. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I warn people not to steal other people’s writing or that a cover letter only works when it’s customized to the writer; they do it anyway. I’ve even received cover letters from this site sent to me when I’m hiring. It’s ridiculous.

5. Dropping half of my last name while applying for jobs

My legal last name is hyphenated, but for family reasons I want to drop the second name and just go by the first. I’ve been using my preferred last name socially for a year but not in work contexts, and I’m not ready to change it legally yet. My first name and the first half of my hyphenated name are a bit unusual, but the second half of my hyphenated name is very unusual (imagine Janetta Forest-Googlesmythe and I want to go by Janetta Forest).

I’m in the process of looking for my first “real” postgrad job after having a few really great seasonal jobs in my field. My previous employers have offered to be references and connect me with people, and I’m so grateful but I’m worried about the logistics of my name change. Is it okay to email them using my old-name email address and ask them to refer to me by my new name, or should I switch all my communications with them to my new-name email even though that’s not how they’re used to hearing from me? Should I put on job applications that I have also gone by Forest-Googlesmythe?

Also, the email address I made for my new name includes my middle initial, which happens to be the same as the first letter of my last name. If I put the name Janetta Forest on a resume but then list the email as janettafforest@website, will they think it’s a typo and/or try to contact me at the “corrected” address? Should I put my name as Janetta F. Forest, even though I don’t want to be known as that?

1. Email your references and let them know you’re dropping Googlesmythe and going by Janetta Forest from now on. It doesn’t really matter which email address you use to do it.

2. If you want to cover all your bases, you can put a note on the list of references that you provide it to employers that says, “Some references may know me as Janetta Forest-Googlesmythe, although I’ve recently dropped the Googlesmythe.”

3. Your job applications don’t need to note that you’ve also gone by Forest-Googlesmythe (unless you encounter an application that specifically asks about other names you might be known by). You definitely don’t need it on your resume.

4. Don’t worry about the double F in your email address. Employers aren’t usually typing in your address from scratch; it’s already in their system from when you applied or they’re just hitting reply to your email. But even if someone does type it in themselves, they’re likely to use what you provided and not second-guess it. (That said, I can imagine that issue coming up in other situations, so if it’s not too late, it might be worth finding one without what might end up being a repeated nuisance to you.)

{ 407 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephen!*

    OP 2, Definitely go to HR. I had a creepy coworker ask me about my bedroom and then on a later occasion, make a comment about my bedsprings. I was worried that my supervisor wouldn’t think that was serious enough, but he was disturbed by the first comment alone. You and your coworkers shouldn’t have to deal with that.

    1. Jackalope*

      I saw the title of the second letter (“Am I overreacting….”), and my immediate response was, “NO!” I will note that my response didn’t change after reading the letter.

      1. me*

        Once I read “There’s a man,” I knew the answer was “nope not overreacting”

        Also worth noting that he’s had 2 complaints on file so it’s a pattern of behavior

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Yes this! Of course it would still be wildly inappropriate if he hadn’t done stuff like this before, but the fact he’s had two complaints about him and is still doing this suggests to me that he genuinely doesn’t care. That said, I’m very disappointed in LW2’s management and organisation more widely that this guy so far doesn’t appear to have faced any consequences.

          LW2, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Yes please do say something to HR ASAP and no you’re not overreacting.

          1. OP2*

            Thank you! The previous two women who lodged formal complaints against him were both shifted to other departments and there were no consequences for him, which is why I’m nervous. Add that to how people seemed to think I should just ignore him and I was very confused.

            1. Eat My Squirrel*

              Ugh. Your company sucks. With that knowledge, I think my advice would be to start applying elsewhere.

              1. Joan Rivers*

                I’d write down EXACTLY what he said, time/date/details, and when that third one comes — you know it will — if it’s this bad, include it, and then report him.

                Three is always a good number to highlight, two sounds random but THREE TIMES? That’s a trend.
                Write it now and be ready.

            2. EPLawyer*

              UGH. So the way your company handles sexual harrassment is to punish the reporter not the harasser? And the write off the harasser as just a “creep?” The goal is NOT to have creeps work for you, not the other way around.

              I read the comments and was appalled BEFORE I got to the part about having a history.

              You need to report this to HR and make it quite clear YOU are not going anywhere because YOU have done nothing wrong. A chat with an employment lawyer might be worth your while too. If the company knows the liability they are opening themselves up to by coddling this guy may be they will actually act.

            3. BRR*

              I would look up laws regarding retaliation for reporting harassment and be prepared with that information when you report him.

              1. LKW*

                100% agree. Shifting you to a different department, especially if it impacts your career path is absolutely retaliation. If the shift does not appeal to you career wise, limits your contact with upper management, requires more commute time, is in a dead end career track, or is work you don’t want to do – all of these could be considered retaliation.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Since they don’t actually work together, moving OP to a different department wouldn’t help. Unless one or other moves to a different company, he can still bump into her in the corridor or canteen.

            4. Venus*

              Ugh, your company is awful.

              My initial thought was that your boss was likely thinking “two harassment cases didn’t change his behavior so why bother with more” and they didn’t realize that the response should be “two harassment cases didn’t change his behavior so more need to be reported to get him out” but… your boss is right with your company. That is really bad.

              If you like your job then in future I would refuse to talk with him (unless needed for work). If he wants to chat then I would smile politely, say I’m really busy today so sorry, and turn around and walk away.

            5. HR Exec Popping In*

              OP2, please report him. While it might not externally look like anything happened to him, you really don’t know. He very well could have warning letters on file and had his performance rating drop or lose a bonus. Sometimes for general “creepy” behavior it sadly can take multiple instances of complaints before a company is comfortable letting the individual go.

              If you are concerned about retaliation, please mention that to HR as well. A good company will put your name on a list and monitor any actions taken such as job changes or changes to performance levels. Also, be prepared to be asked what you would like to be done to resolve this. Often people who work closely to the individual they are complaining about will say they don’t want to work in the same department with the person going forward. That MIGHT be what happened with the other two complainants, but it could also be retaliation so I would want you to explicitly tell HR that you are concerned about that and why (i.e., you believe others who have filed a complaint against the person in the past where moved to other departments).

              1. WantonSeedStitch*

                All of this. And even if nothing HAS happened to him yet, it’s possible that one more report will tip the scales. But yeah, if it gets ignored again, I would recommend looking for a new job. Hopefully the company would eventually get sick of losing good employees because of this creepasaurus. And about the retaliation, it couldn’t hurt to approach it from, “now, I know retaliation against employees for reporting sexual harassment is illegal, but I’m still concerned about it being a possible issue, because I know people who have filed complaints against this person in the past and who were moved to other departments.” Reminding them that this is a legal issue may make them realize that the best way to cover their butts is not to try to make you go away, but to not expose themselves to a lawsuit. Look up what the EEOC has to say about retaliation.

              2. Observer*

                While it might not externally look like anything happened to him, you really don’t know.

                Actually, the OP *DOES* know. His victims were the ones that were penalized in very visible ways. If the company was comfortable moving people, why were THEY moved rather than the harasser. The idea that they might have put a warning note in his file is a joke – and offensive joke. Because it says that they know that he’s doing something wrong and are refusing to actually do something about it.

                Often people who work closely to the individual they are complaining about will say they don’t want to work in the same department with the person going forward. That MIGHT be what happened with the other two complainants, but it could also be retaliation

                You’re missing the point here – even if his prior victims said that they didn’t want to work with him, shifting THEM was not the way to resolve it.

                And why would it help to tell HR that she is worried about retaliation? HR IS THE ONE THAT RETALIATED. No one gets transferred without HR involvement.

                1. Eukomos*

                  I think you’re making a lot more assumptions about what happened than we have the information to substantiate here.

            6. Stephen!*

              Are you in direct contact with the other two women? While the dude should be fired, maybe the move to the other department was offered to them, rather than forced on them? I really hope so, at any rate. But as other people have said, document, document, document, and I am really sorry/enraged on your behalf that your work isn’t supporting you as they should.

              1. Admin 4 life*

                This was my thought. I would personally want to switch departments ESPECIALLY if my supervisor had brushed off my concerns and told me to ignore it. I wouldn’t feel safe and I would want to distance myself from the creepy guy and the ineffective manager.

                1. Observer*

                  Well, sure, if it’s either “be transferred” or “accept harassment”, I would also choose to be transferred. But that’s not a choice that any person should have to make.

            7. Observer*

              The previous two women who lodged formal complaints against him were both shifted to other departments and there were no consequences for him,

              So essentially the women who complained were punished? Start looking for another job because your company is terrible. And consider filing an EEOC complaint. Because one of the things that they look at is if you have used the processes in place to deal with the issue. And if you can show that the company has a pattern of punishing the complainant and leaving the harasser in peace, that’s a BIG issue for them.

            8. quill*

              Two things I can glean from your letter: Your company sucks, and he has become a missing stair.

            9. Lecturer*

              I would still go to HR, 3 times might be the charm and you will be the third person officially complaining

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, agreed. LW, I’m sorry your manager doesn’t have your back. I agree with Alison, it’s time to take this to HR. Especially as the creep has a history of being a creep.

      1. Self Employed*

        What decade is this manager living in anyway, if “he’s just a creep” is still a response they find appropriate?

        1. Mango Tango*

          2010s? Less than 10 years ago this was still a very common attitude. I think people forget how much things changed in this area in the last five years.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Sadly, I’ve given that answer at least once in my career. It was the 00s, the guy had harassed *me*, and my manager (who’d heard about it from someone else and pulled me in for a talk) wanted to terminate his contract for that, and presented it to me as “if you aren’t comfortable around him, say the word and he will be out of here tomorrow”. It was also before I found out that he’d been creeping on other women in the office too, and even making comments about a teammate’s teenage daughter – that would’ve changed my answer. I didn’t want to be the sole reason why his kids wouldn’t have food on the table, and honestly, behavior like his was a lot more normalized then than it is now (a development that I am very happy about). He ended up staying another several months until the end of his contract, which then was not renewed (good). I literally said “he’s just a creep” and my manager’s response to that was “then he should go be a creep somewhere else”.

      2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        And if you’re not already, document everything!

        1. OP2*

          I am now! I’m keeping a document with dates, times and the exact comments he’s making. The last two girls who complained against him both got shifted to other departments and their complaints were swept under the rug. I’m keeping a record so I can escalate it.

          1. allathian*

            Good luck, I hope things work out for you and that something will be done about this creep. But it doesn’t look likely if they’re just shifting the employees who complain, rather than shifting him out the door…

          2. Bagpuss*

            Ew. I really hope you won’t need to.

            If you find they suggest you should be moved, talk to an employment lawyer. If you don’t want to move , make that clear as soon as it is suggested and flag up that you are concerned that the employers reaction appears to be to retaliate against the victim of harassment rather than dealing appropriately with the perpetrator.

            (I’d have thought that this leaves them wide open legally, too, as they are knowing exposing you and whoever else might end up in your place if you are moved, to a known serial harasser.

          3. Chilipepper Attitude*

            I remember Alison suggesting language like, “I don’t want the company harmed by his illegal behavior.” Thats poorly worded but the point is to take a, we are on the same side, tone.

            I think knowing HR did not really do anything might change Alisons advice.

            1. Pennyworth*

              I think Alison sometimes recommends mentioning concerns about retaliation when reporting to HR. It might be worth doing here as other complainants have been moved when they reported him.

              1. Observer*

                Yes, when there is reason to think that the manager is going to retaliation on their own, looping in HR can be useful because COMPETENT and DECENT HR will stop a manager from doing that.

                Here, just mentioning the possibility of retaliation is not useful as it’s HR doing the retaliating. The implied threat of legal problems, though, might work.

          4. Snow Globe*

            I’ve read advice (I think from evilhrlady) that when reporting this to HR, you should include in the subject line “report of sexual harassment”. You need to make it really clear that this is a report that they *must* follow up on.

          5. LKW*

            Since the company has a pattern of rug-sweeping, consider contacting an employment lawyer for advice.

            1. Anthony J Crowley*

              Yes I was thinking that too. You don’t have to do anything yet, but find out what your options are if they try and sweep it under the rug AGAIN.

          6. HR Exec Popping In*

            As part of your documentation, please include anyone who may have overheard his comments or people to whom you extemporaneously shared the incident.

          7. Artemesia*

            Take note of your supervisors remark ‘he is just a creeper’ — as that is part of the pattern in this company. That they can say ‘he is just a creep’ and think that should not be followed with ‘so we need to fire him’ is astonishing. They KNOW he is a creeper and refuses to change his behavior and somehow think this isn’t their problem.

            I am sympathetic to guys whose talk is marginally over the line (as opposed to obviously insulting, demeaning or threatening) and who may not be fully aware that it is over the line — which is why when people complain, they need it spelled out and future consequences noted if they don’t change the behavior. If this guy had reined it in after the first complaints — no harm, small foul. BUT this guy KNOWS; he has already been made aware of the fact that he is inappropriate and continues — that moves it from clueless to predatory.

            1. Tired of Covid-and People*

              I am not sympathetic to any guy who cross the line at any point. Some of them have perfected that “What? That’s offensive? I didn’t know!” routine. It’s called microaggressions and they are a very tiring thing in the workplace. Substitute marginal race related comments and action would be swift. Ignorance of the law is not a defense.

              In 2021, women should be able to earn a living without being harassed, period. I don’t think that day would ever come. OP should file an official EEOC complaint. It’s unfortunate that her time has to be spent on this mess rather than career building activities. Her company sucks. Triple UGH.

              1. limotruck*

                Yeah, I’m a big fan of the metric “Does he do it to other men? No? Then he knows exactly what he’s doing.” So often the ‘I’m just a bumbling goofball who didn’t know what I was doing was wrong’ excuse is trotted out to explain away really seriously problematic behavior in adult men.

                I do also agree with Artemesia, that if he had fixed the problem the first time he made inappropriate comments and was reported for it, that would be more of a situation where you could keep an eye on him but generally move forward. This scenario, however, is beyond not okay.

            2. HR Exec Popping In*

              I personally don’t have compassion for someone saying sexist and degrading comments to women every. However, everyone makes mistakes. Even the best person could in an off moment make a joke that is inappropriate or inadvertently offended someone. That is why generally employees are given a chance to get the feedback and change their behavior. If they don’t, the gloves are off. Frankly any second instance and I would be fighting for termination.

            3. Jaydee*

              Yes. The “he’s just a creep” statement bothers me because that means there’s enough of a pattern here for this guy to have a reputation as a “creep” and for LW’s boss to be aware of that reputation.

              One or two slightly inappropriate comments don’t get you the “creep” label. It takes repetition and escalation to build that reputation and for that reputation to spread.

          8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Ask them to give you details so you can provide that as documentation too!

    3. Pikachu*

      > small but sexualized comments

      Ok, maybe an MTV Cribs “where the magic happens” stale, dated joke?

      > sex dungeon


      1. Afiendishthingy*

        Yup that was my thought process too. YIKES op.
        I’m looking askance at your coworkers and friends who implied you were overreacting. This is seriously inappropriate.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Yeah, there are still a lot of people who think, ‘Oh, he’s just joking,’ or ‘Heh, that sure sounds like him!’ or anything else that sounds like ‘Boys will be boys.’ And then they try to make you look like you’re overreacting because this guy’s behavior is not only the way it is, but maybe the way it’s supposed to be.

          OP, your manager and company both suck. Please keep us posted.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Ugh. “Boys will be boys,” and “he’s mean because he likes you” are two cultural tropes I would deeply love to see fired into the heart of the sun. They do so much harm to girls and women, and do so much to help the creeps and worse of the world have plausible deniability, especially combined with the way women who speak up get gaslighted. “He’s just joking,” “that’s just how he is,” “don’t you think you’re overreacting,” “this could ruin his career/reputation,” and so on… and on…and on.

            The HR Exec who kindly commented above does have a point – it looks bad that your company moved the people who complained, but HR really can’t be public about actions that may have been taken. I’ve been involved with dealing with escalated complaints like this in a non-professional context (keeping it vague for privacy), and it’s hard when people outside the situation complain that you’re not doing anything, when the reality is that what you’ve done is short of firing or otherwise showing the creep the door, but you have done something, you just can’t openly talk about it.

            So I would encourage you to report him, OP2, you have no way of knowing if he’s on his final warning or something similar. But talking to an employment lawyer first, if it’s an option for you, is not at all a bad idea, as well as considering what you will do if your company does not, in fact, take action, or does so by just moving you to another department or something.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              You and the HR Exec make a good point about possible disciplinary actions staying private. In a well-run company, I’d think HR would do more than move the harassed employees to another department.

              In the OP’s case, I doubt a whole lot was done since the man is still behaving inappropriately. The point is still valid, and so is the advice to OP to talk to an attorney AND report this jerk yet again.

      2. Beth*

        Yes! These are not small comments!! OP, this guy is actively creeping on you. Your manager knows it, and has decided it’s easier to tell you to ignore it than to actually handle it, which sucks. Hopefully your HR will do better—especially given he already has a track record.

      3. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        “heaving bosoms,”

        …I can’t decide between rage-laughing and throwing up in my mouth.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah I wouldn’t call that a small sexualised comment, I’d call it an outrageous kinky sexualised comment.

    4. Artemesia*

      Go to HR and say ‘every time we encounter each other at work he makes sexual comments; this is sexual harassment and is creating a hostile work environment.’ When someone does this for the first time, a word should suffice — someone who has had a series of complaints and still does it — no excuse.

      1. StellaBella*

        +1 and also add, “I am aware that he has had other complaints too and I want to make a formal complaint and want this addressed now.” If this violates a written company policy even better to cite that. But do not back down this creep needs to be fired.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If he has a history of complaints, he gets previously zero leeway for risqué jokes. It’s as simple as that.

        “Ignore him, he’s a known creep” is the OPPOSITE of what a manager should be saying.

        1. PT*

          For what it’s worth, I’ve worked places where they were…not great at handling this stuff. Since OP2 is saying that the last two women who reported him were retaliated against with transfers, it is entirely possible that the boss is aware of that and is telling OP2 that ineloquently. “There is nothing I can do about him and if you press on to report him you and I will both be punished.”

          I of course would come out and say such a thing to the people I supervised, explicitly. “My boss is not supportive of harassment claims and always sides with the harasser. If you tell Creepy Customer to stop harassing you and Creepy Customer goes to Grandboss to complain, Grandboss will order me to write you up. I will not be able to protect you or your job. Here are some alternate steps we can take to solve this problem without involving Grandboss.” And then we would go over every single way you could get rid of a creep within the crap parameters the company had established.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes – I would check your employee handbook / office policies (assuming that they exist) and be very clear when you speak to HR that you want to make a formal, official complaint of sexual harassment.

        I wouldn’t say that you know has has previous complaints against him, (HR should know that, and in the first instance, it may be better that you are very clearly reporting things which have happened to *you*, not to anyone else)

        I would simply say that he has been subjecting you to sexual harassment, that this is not an isolated incident, as he has done so on a number of separate occasions, that you are aware that this breaches [relevant policy] and that it is in any event unacceptable and creates a hostile working environment , and that you have already reported it to your direct manager but that they have told you he is “just a creep” and to the best of your knowledge no action has been taken to address his harassment of you.

        And then make a note immediately afterwards of who you spoke to, what (specifically) you told them – e.g. that there have been multiple incidents, that they involve overtly sexual comments including comments about sex-dungeons and about your breasts, and that you had previously reported the incidents to your manager but that nothing has been done, that you expressly told them you considered the behaviour to be sexual harassment and to be creating a hostile workplace – note what they said, and e-mail that yourself so you have a record in case things don’t improve and you need to take it further.

          1. Poopsie*

            Given the additional info OP2 has provided, that the other women that have complained have been moved to different departments, can anyone more knowledgeable comment on if it’s then at a level that it might be a good idea for the OP to talk to a lawyer first?

            Whilst I guess moving the other women wouldn’t be classed as a reprisal in the strictest sense, they have had an action taken against them as a result of their complaint. Knowing this, is it smart for the OP to find out what her options are in response to this if HR come up with the same solution and she doesn’t want to move depts?

            1. Snow Globe*

              In the US, it is absolutely illegal to retaliate against someone who makes a good faith report. If any of those women did not want to be moved, then a lawyer would be a good idea. The fact that the guy still works there and the women were moved makes me concerned that this HR department really doesn’t know the law here, so, yeah, OP may want to think about talking to an employment attorney.

              1. Poopsie*

                Thank you. It might come down to the OP having to decide what end result she’s willing to put up with, but at least if she speaks to a lawyer before hand she will know her options. It does look quite like she will probably be given the option to change departments if she goes to HR and needs to decide if she can accept that, and if not how to fight that.

              2. Observer*

                makes me concerned that this HR department really doesn’t know the law here,

                Or doesn’t care. I mean it’s not like the issue of sexual harassment is some arcane issue that someone might be unaware of.

                1. Constant Reader*

                  It’s possible they don’t care, but it’s also entirely plausible that they are actually unaware of how retaliation actually works. You’d be surprised how many folks can easily conceptualize “cannot fire person for filing SH/discrimination complaint” but find it totally easy to say “person files SH/discrimination complaint, why don’t I offer them a role in another dept.? That way they’re comfortable again! Situation resolved!” To them, they’re solving the problem and all of the involved parties win, rather than actually taking responsibility for creating a safe working environment for EVERYONE. They have a very limited perspective of retaliation. I’m not saying this is at all okay, but I would be totally unsurprised if they thought they were fixing the problem here because I’ve seen it before. (source: currently working in HR handling these kinds of investigations)

            2. Anononon*

              One reason why it may be useful to talk to an attorney is to make sure the proper reporting procedure is followed as required by the law. When I did employment discrimination law in NJ about five years ago, generally speaking, in order to prove liability against the company (which is what you want because they have the deep pockets), the plaintiff had to show that she followed the reporting procedure first internally.

              1. Observer*

                in order to prove liability against the company (which is what you want because they have the deep pockets), the plaintiff had to show that she followed the reporting procedure first internally.

                That’s not universally true. A major exception to this (and there is case law to back this up) is when the victim can show that they have a reasonable fear that they will be retaliated against or that appropriate action will not be taken. Given the history – 2 complainants being moved and not change in the behavior AND the dismissive response for the OP’s manager, I think there is a strong case here.

                Of course, talking to a lawyer is still a good idea.

                1. Anononon*

                  Yup, that’s literally why I said “generally speaking” AND why I said that she should talk to an attorney to confirm the legalities. :/ But, if you want to get technical, let me know, and I can submit a case brief of Aguas v. State, 220 N.J. 494, 524-25 (2015).

                2. Observer*

                  For anyone who is interested, that case confirms that an employer has a defense against liability if it “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior and that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise,”

                  One thing is that a key word here is “unreasonably”. When a company has a pattern of NOT reining in the harasser and retaliating against the victim, it is not “unreasonable” of the plaintiff to not go to the very same HR department that has been doing the retaliation.

                  Also when such a pattern exists then the organization cannot claim that it actually did “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly” any problematic behavior, regardless of what policies may be written on paper.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              Did the other women actually work *with* him, or were they like you, LW, and occasionally interacted with him?

              1. OP2*

                Actually, all three of us used to work with him. I moved laterally into a different, much better department unrelated to him shortly after he was promoted to my previous office, and the other women worked with him when they lodged their complaints.

                A friend said that maybe he got a talking to after the second complaint and decided to target someone who wasn’t actually in his office, as a layer of protection.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Okay, so it seems unlikely they would move *you* as a “response” to a complaint (unless they decide to move you into a different department in a completely different building!), which means that avenue won’t be available to them.

            4. WantonSeedStitch*

              Moving someone to a less-desirable department or position within a company in response to their making a formal complaint like this can definitely be deemed retaliation. It can be considered that pretty much any transfer, other than one that includes more pay or more responsibility or more visibility is “less-desirable,” as it requires you from starting over with building relationships and building capital within the workplace. I think that unless the company can prove that they made these changes in response to something completely unrelated to the complaints (e.g., showing a track record of poor performance from the person, or showing that it was part of an overall organizational change, or that the person’s job duties had been in the process of changing and that the move made sense because of that), they’d be in hot water.

            5. paxfelis*

              Also asking for someone with more knowledge to weigh in. Can OP also submit a complaint of collusion against the manager who said the idiot was just a creep? I’m not sure if collusion is the correct word, what I mean is “helping or permitting a situation to continue through wilful inaction.”

              1. Jaydee*

                Collusion isn’t the right word. But employers can be liable for failure to take action to stop known harassment.

                Boss’s statement is evidence that:
                a) Creepy Guy (CG) has enough of a pattern of behavior to have earned a reputation as “a creep”
                b) LW’s boss is aware of this reputation
                c) LW’s boss is not taking this pattern of behavior and reputation seriously enough to take some type of action.

                If LW’s boss is not also CG’s boss (which it sound like is true from the letter), then LW’s boss probably has no direct authority to discipline or fire CG. That doesn’t mean he can just wash his hands of the situation.

                LW’s boss should do either or both of the following:
                – encourage LW to make a complaint to HR, back her up when HR investigates (“Yes, LW came to me and told me what CG said to her. I urged her to report that to HR. I was aware of a history of similar issues involving CG, so it seemed important to make sure this was raised as well and not swept under the rug.”) and stand up for her against any possible retaliation
                – make a complaint to HR on LW’s behalf (“My employee, LW, told me about [situation]. This sounds like sexual harassment. I’m aware there have been past complaints involving CG, and this seems like a pattern of behavior on his part. Please investigate.”)

                Boss could also do any of the following:
                – talk to CG’s boss (“Hey colleague, your employee is harassing my employee. Make that stop.”)
                – talk to whoever is the mutual boss of both LW and CG (“Hey grandboss, this guy over on Team A is harassing LW over here on Team B. Since you oversee all the llama grooming teams, maybe you want to do something about this.”
                – allow LW and other team members to take steps to insulate themselves from contact with CG. Maybe requests from CG or his team get funneled through boss or maybe some lunch breaks get switched to avoid being in the break room at the same time as CG. Heck, maybe boss requests budget approval to buy another printer/copier and convert an office into a break room for his team with the justification that he can’t subject his team to sharing those facilities with CG due to CG’s pattern of harassment. If the higher-ups aren’t worried about the harassment, put a price tag on it. A fancy printer, a microwave, a coffee pot, a fridge, and a couple tables and chairs are cheaper than a harassment lawsuit. (Firing CG and hiring someone new is also cheaper).

            6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              It is almost always a good idea to talk to a lawyer. If you are wondering if you should talk to a lawyer, then you probably should talk to a lawyer. It isn’t something you need to wait on until you are ready to sue or have learned you are being sued. We advise on all kinds of things early on in the process, like what wording to use, what documentation to keep, what the realities are if you are put in a position where legal action is on the table. And considering what OP2 knows of other women reporting, it is a good idea to work with a lawyer on an overall strategy.

              That said, OP2, remember that you do not really know all the details of the situation of the other two women who complained. HR cannot tell you anything about them, so you only know what they told you or what others said about what happened. Often people shift departments because they prefer it as a solution over remaining and hoping that the behavior stops or that they won’t face retaliation (and not just from the creep, but possibly other department/team members, if they are buddies with the creep – moving him may not be enough to ensure the women aren’t facing retaliation). Also, just because the creep was not fired, it does not mean he didn’t get any repercussions. It is good to tell a lawyer what you know (and admit what you do not know) if you discuss your case with one, as it is a potential red flag. But the department moves may very well have been at the request of the women who complained.

    5. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      Holy hell. Holy HELL. The underreaction to this guy talking to her about sex dungeons is something.

      1. Observer*

        The underreaction to this guy talking to her about sex dungeons is something

        Yeah. Jaw dropping, to be honest.

      2. JG Obscura*

        Honestly, the “sex dungeon” bit doesn’t sound super creepy to me, at least not as a stand-alone comment. I’d think of it as a joke that landed poorly. Now was it inappropriate? ABSOLUTELY. But I can tell you with sincerity that’s probably something I’d stupidly say (without thinking) as joke to someone I felt chummy with.
        But if it got the response OP gave, I’d immediately and profusely apologize with “Oh god that’s so inappropriate I am so sorry.”
        Now the BOSOMS bit? Again, *maybe* it could have been a joke in poor taste BUT NOT WHEN HE’S LOOKING AT HER BREASTS.
        All this combined, it’s harassment and it needs addressing.

        1. Jaydee*

          I feel like I personally wouldn’t be offended by the sex dungeon comment, but I’d probably call it out. The “heaving bosoms” on the other hand wouldn’t even register for me if it weren’t for the boob-staring. That’s super-gross. But I think there’s a certain level of PG-rated commentary on the hotness of actors or the raciness of a TV show that is pretty common and not problematic in the workplace.

          But it’s also important to be careful and read the room. What’s fine in one workplace might be way too much in another. And even fairly innocuous comments can be too much if they’re constant or if they start to be a way to objectify women or men or to ostracize LGBTQ+ employees or employees of particular religious beliefs or if they become overtly sexual or if they start to fetishize people of certain races/ethnicities/body types. You have to know where the line is and stay a safe distance back from the line.

    6. the cat's ass*

      SO tired of this. My practice had a creeper, and because he was a patient HR wasn’t all that helpful. Ultimately, all the women employees who’d dodged his crawling hands, creepy comments, and kisses went to our chief of staff and refused to work with creeper. He was then cared for exclusively by male providers, MA’s ,etc. He finally left the practice because ‘nobody (read women) would talk to him.’
      We also had a HR person as our next creeper (asking much younger women staff to connect with him on Tinder, DMs, etc.) and he was fired right smart.
      How is this sh!t remotely okay???

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        He’s knowingly doing this because it turns him on. He deserves to be fired ASAP. It would be disgusting in a non-work place, it is completely unacceptable in a workplace and I can’t believe the company is tolerating this!

    7. Momma Bear*

      OP2 – definitely not overreacting! Please go to HR. Your boss should not have brushed you off. This guy is way over the line and needs to be reported. He should have been removed already, actually. But don’t let this go just because your boss doesn’t have the backbone to deal with it.

    8. LifeBeforeCorona*

      In a perfect world: “Co-worker, you are a creep. People know that you are inappropriate and new hires are warned about you. Most people are polite to you out of professional courtesy. You have been warned and put on notice. Just stop. Thank you.” from HR and their boss.

    9. Nanani*

      Seconded. Boundary-testing is a way for predators to see how much they can get away wit. Once “jokes” are normalized they escalate. And escalate again. Until you get seriously hurt and everyone blames you for not speaking up earlier.

      You are NOT overreacting, you are reacting correctly. Protect yourself and be prepared to escalate your own defenses if no one listens.

    10. Agency Survivor*

      I ignored the creepy guy at a former workplace until the young intern told me he’d been bothering her, too. Reported both our cases and he was fired the next day. I regret that I didn’t speak up when it was just me, knowing that a college student had to go through that!

    11. Goddess47*

      OP 2… if/when you run into this sort of thing from *anyone*, play ‘dumb’… look puzzled and say something along the lines of “why would you say that?” or “I don’t get it.”

      For the casual creep, it will likely set them back and make them think about what they just said/asked. For the professional creep, like your guy, it gives him more rope to hang himself, especially if he goes on to try to explain. (Although you may not want to hang around long enough to get that explanation.)

      Good luck!

  2. D3*

    WHY do people ever think that “he’s just a creep” is an okay way to handle someone like that???
    Yes, he’s a creep. That’s WHY he needs to be dealt with. You cannot let creeps just run amok unchecked.

    1. Four lights*

      Yeah, I think we’ve decided / realized that we don’t need to put up with creeps anymore.

    2. Beth*

      It’s a ‘missing stair’ type thing, I think. If someone is newly creepy, that stands out as a problem. But if it’s someone who everyone knows is a creep, who’s been creepy for ages, who maybe has been slowly escalating over a long period instead of jumping straight to sex dungeon comments…it becomes “Everyone knows to expect this from Fergus, this is normal; we already decided it wasn’t a big enough deal to fire him last time, and this is only a smidgeon more creepy than that was, so it’s not worth bringing it up again; it turns into such a bureaucratic mess when we report these things, and it didn’t go anywhere the last two times, so what’s the point; everyone else has learned to brush his comments off, you need to grow a thicker skin; we’ve been handling it fine, what’s the big deal?”

      Obviously none of this is an actual reason to dismiss a sexual harassment complaint. The creep needs to be dealt with. But it’s a pretty common thing for a group to get used to its own problems and start seeing them as inevitable and unfixable, and it can take someone really dedicated to shaking things up to overcome that. Hopefully OP’s HR department has someone who fits that description!

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Agreed; it’s very human to normalize these things, especially if we feel we have no power over them.

        Good to be aware of that, since we are all vulnerable to becoming blind to bad behaviours — especially we’ve spent years trying to adjust to them when we didn’t have the power to address it.

      2. London Calling*

        Oh yesyesyes to all of this. Only when someone decided I’M NOT HAVING THIS NO WAY EVER at my place did the wheels start to turn

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      ‘Oh it’s just the way he is, he wouldn’t actually DO anything to you!’
      ‘It’s just his way of being friendly, he can’t change’
      ‘Maybe you’re reading too much into this’
      ‘Look, you’re gonna have to deal with the fact there will always be men like that wherever you are’
      ‘Maybe try wearing more concealing clothes and don’t talk to him?’

      Yeah….heard all that along with ‘just a creep’ many years ago when I complained about someone who really was being inappropriate af. It’s the single most infuriating thing I’ve ever had to deal with at work.

      There are no reasonable accommodations for creeps. They should either behave better or get fired.

      1. OP2*

        That’s absolutely how it is. My work environment is primarily men in higher positions and women as office staff, and admin, and it is very much an environment where sexism is casually tolerated, tbh. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard cleaning jokes, sex jokes, math jokes from the men around me.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Working IT in heavy engineering, yeah it wasn’t the first time I’d encountered the unspoken ‘you can’t complain about sexism if you want women to get anywhere in this field’.

          Many of us complained about that one guy, but nothing got done. I was the first to leave. I do wonder if I’d been older (this is about 10 years ago) if I’d fought back harder, especially now knowing the actual laws against sexual harassment at work.

          (Only good point is that guy DID eventually get fired. But for financial fraud sadly, not the tens of women he’d seriously upset)

        2. EPLawyer*

          DEFINITELY time to consult an employment lawyer. Your state may have a hotline, if not the State or County Bar usually has a referral list.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          I wish I could tell you it’s different if you have female management… but unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. Women who have spent most of their careers in that type of environment often have internalized a lot of the nonsense too.

          I still remember the time I reported a skeevy customer saying skeevy things to me. I was not the first one to report him being skeevy, but it was the most serious. My (male) boss wanted to ban the customer right away. But my (female) grandboss decided to meet with me instead to ask if I’d “told Gross McRapey clearly and directly that I wasn’t interested and wanted him to stop.” I had not. Because A) I shouldn’t have to tell a customer not to proposition me while I’m trying to do my job and B) he’s a registered sex offender with a violent history who knows where I work and C) he’s twice my size and carries a knife. Like hell I’m gonna reject the guy to his face! I like being alive and intact thank you very much!

          But for her, it was just the thing you had to do to be in this career. She’d put up with the bullshit for decades and at some level just thought it was normal. And honestly, I’d also put up with a lot of bullshit without a second thought before I complained about the guy I was actually scared of. Whereas my male boss old enough to be my grandfather who’d never had a female direct report before was SHOCKED that someone would EVER treat a woman like that and was ready to rain down hellfire on this nasty dude. He stood up for me too… since Grandboss wouldn’t let him ban the customer he told me anytime Gross Dude showed up that I was to call Boss out and Boss would serve Gross Dude while I took an extra paid break out of sight.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’ve heard that one, and also, ‘He thinks you’re attractive, you should be flattered!’ I didn’t, and I wasn’t.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Worse, my female boss told me since I didn’t encourage him, I should be flattered by his attention. A WOMAN TOLD ME THAT.

              1. Workerbee*

                I had been told similar by the harassing dude’s female boss. I get that she had no idea what to do about the situation, despite her many more years in the workforce, but damn, lady.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I got the reverse once: ‘you’re fat, you only WISH a guy like that would flirt with you’.

          2. Idril Celebrindal*

            I just dealt with this from a female relative yesterday. I was talking about how I went to the grocery store in heels (my regular store but I’m not usually dressed up) and three guys randomly said hi to me in passing. She tried to tell me that it wasn’t sexism because “men are sight hounds” and they just found me attractive and they never do that to her. Then when I pushed back on her comments she tried to paint me as pissed off about the “compliments”. Argh! I wasn’t pissed off at them, but I was sure annoyed with her

        2. Nanani*

          For readers who don’t get it: THIS IS THE TRAP

          If OP doesn’t report it, she’s encouraging him tacitly by playing along. So the creepiness escalates until it’s way way worse than a gross joke, and she gets all the blame.

          This is why zero tolerance for creeps is so important.

    4. Well...*

      Yes, something should definitely be done about this guy. But in the absence of any action (depending on what happens with HR), it seems like LW can safely avoid him, no? If I were them I would avoid chit chat in the common area. If LW doesn’t have to interact with him for their job, then the stakes are lower and HR might not be moved to action as urgently as they would to address the complaint of someone who had to work with this guy.

      Still if LW feels safe to escalate then it would help with establishing a pattern against this guy. But TBH of I were LW I would just avoid him and want others that he’s a creep. In my work all kinds of badness comes from formal complaints and we rely heavily on the whisper network.

      1. anonymous 5*

        At this point, if HR doesn’t do anything, LW should at least consult a lawyer to see what other escalation is possible. If a formal complaint could bring “all kinds of badness” for the LW, that’s part of the problem.

      2. OP2*

        That’s the thing – I do avoid him as much as I can already. I don’t go to the staff areas, I eat lunch at my desk. I only ever meet him at the shared coffee machine, water cooler or smoking area. Just yesterday I went to a different smoking area specifically to avoid him – and he saw me go in there, followed me, and said “I followed you because I’m stalking you” directly to me.

        I just can’t believe the best option is to continue like this. As a staff member I should be able to utilise the common areas as much as anyone else, without fear.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yeah, that’s not just creepy, that’s threatening.

          ‘Just avoid the harasser’ does not work either. I tried it, they will come up with even more ways to get to you.

          What I should have done back when I had someone that creepy (he used to openly stare at my chest and then reference his ahem ‘trouser area’) was when HR told me to leave it alone, go talk to a lawyer. Or tell HR I was going to. Something like that.

          In all seriousness mate, I’m concerned. Hope you stay safe.

        2. Eat My Squirrel*

          OMG! “I’m stalking you.” Seriously?? CAN I PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE FOR YOU??

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I would definitely like to punch him on OP’s behalf…but perhaps somewhat lower than the face…(not a serious suggestion).

        3. Peter*

          “I followed you because I’m stalking you”

          That scares me.

          You are definitely not over-reacting to escalate it as quickly as possible to someone suitable in HR, or to your grandboss.

          I’m in the UK and at this stage I’d be advising you that if you ever see this person outside the office that you go to the police and ask about restraining orders. Please stay safe and do not be constrained by politeness into under-reacting.

          1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            That is terrifying and horrible. You are 100% not overreacting.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            That freaks me out, too. Too often these creepy types do escalate, and that comment really worries me on the OP’s behalf.

          3. Aggretsuko*

            I’m screaming in my head right now reading it. That just went waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of line.

        4. Tired of Creepy Men*

          What in the actual F. If you are avoiding common areas at work, then it is a problem. And based on his behavior that you’ve shared, it seems to be escalating. Tell HR ASAP, and if they blow it off, contact a lawyer. I’d start searching and asking for lawyer names now. Or, you could talk to a lawyer first, and send a very formal letter to HR about it with your lawyer. If that doesn’t spur them into action then I don’t think anything will.

        5. LKW*

          I know when he says anything you’re likely in shock and don’t know how to react. But now that you know he’s supercreep I think you need to call him out. Consider finding a few choice phrases and practice them outloud so they become comfortable.

          “That’s absolutely inappropriate. I do not like how you talk to me and would prefer if you left me alone.”
          “We’re not friends, we’re at work. These topics are unacceptable.”
          “That’s really creepy. Are you aware how creepy you sound?” (I suspect he thinks he’s super suave and clever, he probably has no idea that people think he’s a creep.)

          But HR isn’t going to help you. Your boss isn’t going to help you. I really think it’s time to contact a lawyer and get some advice. In the meantime, put polite but firm boundaries in place.

          1. Crivens!*

            He’s been reported to HR twice with no consequences for him. I think he knows people think he’s a creep.

            They almost always know what they’re doing is wrong. They don’t care.

            1. Tisiphone*

              Anyone who admits straight up they’re stalking you knows damn well there will be no consequences. That’s the scariest part of all.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                No, it’s a joooooke!!! It’s just him being charming!!! {rolls my eyes}

                (I mean, seriously, if I follow someone down the hall and we go into the bathroom at the same time, I would have at one time joked “ha ha don’t worry I’m not stalking you.” But even that is something I don’t do any more because it’s occurred to me that to someone who has been stalked, this isn’t funny.)

              2. Aggretsuko*

                Yeah, that’s “you might wanna just quit the job with no job lined up” terror territory :(

            2. AnonRonRon*

              Yes. He lost the cluelessness defense two harassment complaints ago. And regardless, why make excuses for shitty men? They really don’t need the help.

          2. Forrest*

            The thing about advice like this is that this is someone SO FAR OUTSIDE the boundaries of normal “polite” interaction that they say things like “I’m stalking you”. Their judgment is so clearly out of line with any normal expectations that you have no idea whether a “polite but firm boundary” will be met with, “Oh, I’ve overstepped, I’d better stop” or massive escalation, up to the point of violence and threats. They are a completely unknown quantity, and it’s not necessarily safe to default to “clear and polite communication which would work on anyone who is acting in good faith or who wants to respect professional boundaries”.

            OP, if you feel comfortable doing this or want to try it, you are not doing anything wrong. But if your instinct is that doing something like this would be useful and/or terrifying and might lead to escalation, don’t let yourself get talked into it. Don’t second guess yourself, or let yourself get talked into the idea that *you* can solve this by reacting in the “right” way (and that if you fail to solve it, it’s because you reacted in the “wrong” way)– you cannot personally solve a problem like this man.

        6. Lora*

          This is bad. Like, if HR does not do anything pronto, I would be job hunting for my own safety. “I’m stalking you”??!?

          This guy needs to be fired, yesterday. Not understood or avoided or tolerated. Fired. It’s a very short conversation: “Pervert, due to your repeated instances of sexual harassment you are being fired and will not be eligible for rehire. Burly Security here will help you collect your personal effects and escort you out. Please give him your badge. Here is a folder of COBRA information, your last check will be direct deposited on Friday. Good luck in your future endeavors.” That’s it. Pervert’s manager has to make three phone calls to make it happen: 1, a conference call with HR and their manager, explaining that harassment happened and they are DONE with it, Pervert is being terminated. 2, a second call to HR to put together the packet of COBRA info and whether they want to cut a paper check for the last paycheck or what and coordinate the timing of firing. 3, call whoever in HR does recruitment to post the job opening and make sure the job description and salary range is up to date.

        7. Shirley Keeldar*

          Honestly, OP, every time I see you’ve jumped into he comments (hi, it’s nice to see you here) I get more and more horrified. You are in no way, shape, or form under reacting. And you should not have to deal with this at work! Your company is under reacting badly, however, and they should be ashamed.

        8. Anthony J Crowley*

          I was already upset for you when you said you have changed your behaviour to avoid him.

          But ‘I’m stalking you’?! TERRIFYING.

          You need to talk to HR, a lawyer, AND the police, stat. In no particular order. Because *shudder*.

        9. Forrest*

          >>>>As a staff member I should be able to utilise the common areas as much as anyone else, without fear.

          you should be able to! You absolutely should! Please keep really tight hold of that thought, and try not to let all the down-players make you second-guess it. You should totally be able to go to work and do normal things in normal shared spaces without having to spend even 1% of your time and energy thinking about this disgusting man. :(((

        10. EmKay*

          Please escalate this immediately with EVERYONE. If HR or his boss don’t do squat (which I’m afraid they won’t), you need big guns. Like a lawyer. Or even a report to the police, jfc this guy is a credible threat.

        11. Generic Name*

          Please go back to HR and tell them exactly what you’ve told us. I’m also a trauma survivor, and I understand the instinct to minimize the behavior. I also used to shy away from calling bullying and threats and abuse those things. What’s been most helpful to me is to flatly repeat words or to clearly describe specific behaviors behaviors. So instead of saying “Bob has been making small sexual comments and I feel uncomfortable” say “Bob talked about me making a ‘sex dungeon’ in my house and when I specifically avoid him he follows me and says ‘if you think I’m following you it’s because I’m stalking you.” One sounds sophomoric and the other sounds downright frightening. And he is being very frightening and you absolutely are not overreacting.

          Again as a trauma survivor, I suggest you rethink friendships with the people around you who are minimizing creepy coworker’s behavior. Given your history, those friends should be jumping to your side and not brushing off creeps’ behaviors.

          1. Artemesia*

            And again you want magic phrases like ‘formal complaint’. ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘creating a hostile work environment’ where I can’t even go into a common space without him following me and saying things like ‘I am following you because I am stalking you.’ And it might not hurt to mention ‘I have heard when other women have complained they have been retaliated against.’ Not sure about that one without legal advice.

          2. Isabel Archer*

            OP, please get yourself a copy of “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker. Like, today. It describes how and why women often underreact to this kind of behavior, sometimes until it’s too late. And it shows you how to recognize the creep’s tactics as they escalate. This a*hole is dangerous, probably more than you realize. Nothing he’s doing is casual, “jokey,” or unplanned. I’m so sorry you’re not getting appropriate support from your boss, and that you work for a company that would keep this creep around, after 2 other women reported him! Please be careful.
            [Credit for the book recommendation must go to Carolyn Hax, advice columnist for the Washington Post, who’s been recommending it to readers in situations like yours for 20 years.]

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Very much agreed with this.

            I’m in the UK and there’s an ex coworker (I left the firm) who I pray never ever finds out where in the country I am because he did escalate to full on stalking me outside of work the instant I handed in my notice.

            The people who tried to tell me to ‘just deal with it, he’ll get bored if you don’t show any reaction and then will leave you alone’ are not counted among my friends after saying that.

        12. pleaset cheap rolls*

          ‘ he saw me go in there, followed me, and said “I followed you because I’m stalking you” directly to me.’

          He’s got to go.

        13. WantonSeedStitch*

          Document all of this. And perhaps if he says this again, raise an eyebrow and say, “you know stalking is illegal, right?”

        14. Momma Bear*

          You shouldn’t have to manage him via your behavior! Please, please report the stalking comment immediately. He’s not just crossed a line, he’s obliterated it. Honestly, if he’s stalking you then you can also talk to the cops. That behavior might not stop even if he’s finally fired.

        15. Observer*

          You mentioned in another comment all of the other comment the casual sexism. Please document that as well and then go speak to a lawyer to get a sense of your options.

          Given what you are describing here, this really sounds like a classic hostile environment situation. You are being limited in where you can go and what resources you can use in your company. Your harasser explicitly told you that he is stalking you! And you have already reported it to one person in a position to do something she has refused to do anything about it. You have reason to fear going to HR because of their past pattern – and there is no way that HR took strong action against him, because if they had, this would not be happening. At least not this blatantly.

        16. MEH Squared*

          “I’m stalking you” made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I was already angry on your behalf, but this is horrifying. You are NOT overreacting, OP. You are reacting correctly and everyone around you in underreacting! Heed the good advice in this comment section of talking to your HR and an employment lawyer, but most of all, do whatever it takes to feel safe. This is not funny or a joke or ‘just the way he is’–this is harassment.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THANK YOU. Why should OP have to change her life to accomodate a creep? SHE did nothing wrong. By advocating “oh just avoid him” you are putting the onus for the bad behavior on the wrong person. The creep should avoid OP not the other way around.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not just that. It also doesn’t really work all that well. This is the kind of thing women did for YEAR (decades, really) because they often did not have any other options. Do you think it really helped? Maybe a LITTLE in that maybe it kept some women from actually getting cornered by said creep on occasion. But really? These creeps continued to creep and women suffered while taking hits to their careers because of the steps they were trying to take to protect themselves.

            So, SO tired of this kind of advice.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This right here. “While you have taken many steps to avoid him, you haven’t taken to climbing the building ninja style–so really, it’s on you to do more” is not the appropriate guidance.

        3. londonedit*

          Absolutely. This is how these creeps continue to get away with it, because it ends up getting minimised into ‘Oh, yeah, that’s just Fergus…we all try to ignore him’ which means everyone knows there’s no point reporting anything (especially if the response in the past has been to shunt the reporter off to a different department where they can’t cause any more trouble, allowing Fergus to carry on as he likes!)

          1. Lance*

            And OP’s manager is already doing it (‘just a creep’). This needs to be escalated, it needs to become a problem to actually be dealt with, however that may come about; just giving up is not going to solve anything.

      3. virago*

        “TBH if I were LW I would just avoid him and warn others that he’s a creep. In my work all kinds of badness comes from formal complaints and we rely heavily on the whisper network.”

        As OP said after you posted your comment, she is already doing all she can to avoid The Creep and he’s following her everywhere but the bathroom.

        Plus the whisper-network-and-avoid strategy just enables The Creep, as it did previous Creeps, and as it will enable Creeps in the future.

        It’s a strategy of the 1950s and 1960s — and even then, women found ways to indicate that what the Creeps were doing was unacceptable, end of story. I’m thinking of the doc I went to who’s long since retired but was a resident in the early ’60s.

        The whisper network told her about a Creepy older doctor who liked to follow nurses and women doctors up the stairs and goose them.

        One day Dr. Creepy goosed my physician. She reached back, grabbed his package, and said, in a low voice, “If I ever hear of you doing this again, to any woman, then everyone in this hospital is going to know what you’ve been doing.” Apparently he stopped, because she never heard of his goosing another woman as long as she was there. (And he was getting close to retirement age, so when my doc told me this story, she hoped that was the end of the goosing, period.)

        I’m not blaming people for not thinking as quickly as my former doctor did. I’m one of the ones who would’ve been too shocked by being goosed to say anything!

        But in a workplace in 2021, when a lot of women and woman-identified people are targeted for repeated harassment, it’s irresponsible not to suggest exploring other places to share harassment concerns. If HR won’t listen, I bet (in the US, at least) an employment lawyer or the state human rights commission or Department of Labor would.

        1. Forrest*

          >>It’s a strategy of the 1950s and 1960s — and even then, women found ways to indicate that what the Creeps were doing was unacceptable, end of story. I’m thinking of the doc I went to who’s long since retired but was a resident in the early ’60s.

          hey, is this where I talk about my PhD on secretary / boss romances in 1920s novels and their depiction of sexual harassment?

      4. Kiki*

        I completely understand what you’re saying— it’s the pragmatic thing to do for the time being— but changing your normal workplace habits and behaviors to avoid creeps can add up to a lot of work and make it difficult to advance in your career. Its frustrating to constantly be on guard and limit yourself socially and in your ability to network to avoid sexual harassment when someone should really intervene with the creepers and tell them they’re acting unacceptably.

      5. Observer*

        I would just avoid him and want others that he’s a creep. In my work all kinds of badness comes from formal complaints and we rely heavily on the whisper network.

        There is no “just” about it. Even if the OP were not already doing that. This is not a small thing.

        The fact that this is the way your workplace operates doesn’t make it ok. It makes your workplace a dysfunctional workplace. And, if you are in the US, you should probably start looking for a new job AND consider going to the EEOC or the State analogue in your state.

    5. Nanani*

      Usually because they benefit. Either from normalizing creepieness so they can be creeps too someday, or from being on the creep’s good side (or at least not his target).

    6. AnonRonRon*

      Totally. And my thought was, it’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s that he DOES care. He is actively trying to make female colleagues uncomfortable, *because he enjoys it.* He’s not just clueless or habitually crude. He’s behaving in a very intentional way that is predatory. That puts a much different spin on the creepiness.

  3. Greg*

    OP5, if you’re using gmail, it ignores ‘.’ in email addresses. So janetta.f.forest and janettafforest both go to the same account. Other email providers may or may not do the same thing; it’s not part of the specification but I think other providers followed gmail.

    1. Eliza*

      Email addresses also aren’t case sensitive, so if the dot thing doesn’t work with your provider, you could go for JanettaFForest@website to make it look less like a typo.

      1. JR*

        This is almost always true, but it’s not technically required for email to work this way, and with some less-common email providers (maybe some universities?) it might not work right. Anyone trying this should test it first with a friend.

    2. Siege*

      Yes. This is why my friend jdoe@gmail also gets j.doe@gmail’s email. It’s likely part of why I get three different people’s email on occasion. (I am not named Bryan, I do not live Georgia, I do not have a Honda that needs servicing, I am also not named Trisha and I did not apply for a Capital One Visa card.) It’s not a huge deal if OP controls both, but it is a monstrous pain in the ass when the person with the period doesn’t know this.

      It’s also not consistent.

      1. Forrest*

        I get AMAZING wrong things to my Gmail account, which I’ve had since 2007 and it’s “basic Scottish name” For a few months I was on the mailing list of some kind of cheerleading squad ((?)) in South Carolina, and I was getting all these emails like, “OK girls, we hear you about the costumes and Mary-Anne and me are going to make some changes”. Currently I’m on one for a ladies’ social committee for a golfing club, and someone queried the secretary’s account keeping and oh BOY she is not happy. All just top quality drama.

        1. Artemesia*

          hmmm. That service that rents movies from machines has been sending me receipts forever — I have informed them they have the wrong email but I was not aware of this ‘dot’ issue and so maybe the guy doing the renting has my handle for that account with ‘dots’ in it? I at first thought it might be credit card fraud, but it never appeared on my credit card — just in the email box. Another modern mystery perhaps solved.

          1. Minerva*

            There won’t be another account created with different dots.

            Some people just misspell names or use their name @ Gmail if they don’t want to get email.

            I get a metric fucktonne of other people’s email. Too many companies don’t check email addresses and keep sending things to me forever.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          Lol. My friend has a rather unusual name and there are two people she sometimes gets emails for. They’re all in contact and one forwards misent emails to her and she forwards to the other two. The other one refuses to correct her email address with a few internet-based services, so my friend actually logged in and changed it as at least one of these services was a very prolific emailer.

        3. Gumby*

          I got a job offer for someplace in Australia once (I live in the US). It had none of the hallmarks of a scam so I wrote back saying I wished I could accept the offer, but I doubted it was meant for me. The sender was quite nice and I hope the other person took that job!

          I also know way too much about some dude’s air conditioning repairs in North Carolina, have been invited to family reunions for people I don’t know, get acting gig notices in London (for extra work, not speaking roles as far as I can tell), and a plethora of other surprising and interesting things. I suspect most are typos since I did track down the air conditioning guy (via LinkedIn) so I could let him know when the repairman was showing up – a letter had been left out of his email address.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I understand this pattern–getting emails that appear to be for someone else–is a form of spear phishing as well.

        Don’t let your sense of danger get worn down.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          This is a good warning. My last name is clearly from a specific European language, which I don’t speak, and my email address is firstinitiallastname@commonfreeserviceprovider. I found myself on what appeared to be the mailing list for a preschool or kindergarten class in that country, in that language, at least as far as I could tell from Google Translate. I did try to respond and let them know they had the wrong person after the first couple of messages, and I still think it was legit (there were about the right number of people in the CC line, very little spam actually makes it though to my inbox, they weren’t asking for anything but just conveying information most of the time and when they did ask for something it was for volunteers for soccer practice snacks), but this is a good reminder to be on my guard.

      3. Julia*

        I’m confused by this comment. It sounds from the original comment like j.doe and jdoe are the *same* address, so it is impossible for one person to take j.doe and the other to take jdoe. And email sent to either *always* goes to whoever has one of those addresses.

        But it sounds like what you’re saying is different? Sounds like you’re saying this is like a bug, not a feature, and sometimes it doesn’t work? But Gmail seems to tout it as a feature (“dots don’t matter”). Am I misunderstanding your comment?

        1. Unfettered scientist*

          You’re right with Gmail. Maybe other providers are different but I have no clue what people are talking about with it being a mistake.

          1. SometimesALurker*

            My guess is that the person who gives j.doe@gmail as their email address is actually wrong about their own email address, and they’re really jdoe1@gmail or something. I’d find that extremely surprising except I know a “Sarah Smith” who has actually managed to contact some of her email doppelgangers.

            1. Ama*

              I work for a nonprofit that launched its own app a few years ago — when we first started demonstrating it at our events there were an astonishing number of people who did not know their own email address (which you needed to register for the app). Turns out a lot of people who are not particularly tech savy had a more technology literate friend or family member set up their gmail account for them, put it on their phone and then never logged out of it ever.

              This was in the relatively early days of smartphones and every online thing requiring you to enter your email to access it so I think it is better now but I’m sure there are still plenty of people like that out there.

      4. Elenna*

        Interestingly I almost never get mail meant for someone else to my firstname.lastname@provider address. Maybe because it’s a combination of a not unusual but not super common Western first name, plus a only-common-in-China last name. Or maybe because the provider in question is Yahoo. (The email address was created 15+ years ago and I’m too lazy to change providers.)

        OTOH I get plenty of mail meant for other people to my gmail address, which isn’t even a name – it’s similar to, say,

    3. Wendy*

      This is a big help. I can see your point about people assuming it’s a typo, though – for a long time, my email address was my initials and a number. Unfortunately, my initials ended with L and the number started with a 1, which made “wbl12” hard to differentiate from “wb112” or “wbll2” in both handwriting and in most fonts. When I finally got gmail, I made sure to register an address based on JUST my name (no number) and it’s cut down on the confusion a lot :-)

      1. Laird Angus McAngus*

        This is what I was coming to say. My personal e-mail address has an 11 (the number eleven – see, I have to explain it!) at the end, and it’s been a headache. I think it would be fine if it was more obviously a number that can’t be mistaken for a letter, but I definitely have had people tell me they thought it was 2 L’s. I would get a new e-mail address – people will on occasion think the double letter is a typo for sure and you will probably miss e-mails.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I used to be in software procurment, and our email address was “softwarelicencing@…”. We consistently had people “correct” our address to “softwarelicensing@…” – which meant we had to spend time tracking down our softare licenses. (I ended up requesting an alias so they’d still come to us.)

          So I wouldn’t count on people not correcting the address.

        2. Ellen Ripley*

          My email address, and a lot of my usernames, are my first initial, which is an ‘L’, and then my last name. A lot of people think it’s a ‘1’ instead. So I tend to type/write it with the first two letters capitalized, which isn’t standard for email addresses but makes the l/1 distinction more obvious, in almost all fonts and in handwriting.

      2. Anononon*

        There’s a double letter in my work email address from the company name being smushed together, and it’s become second nature to just say “yes, two [the letter] next to each other,” as I give the email.

    4. Jen*

      I have the exact same issue with my email address and I haven’t tried periods, but I’ve had more success spelling it out like “janetta””ff””orest” then the more natural name decisions. I’ve never had an issue with it was printed on something or entered, but it’s wrong all the time if I have to say it.

    5. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I was going to comment something similar. I have the odd fortune of having first middle and last names that all begin with “A” and on top of that my first name also ends with “A”. (e.g. “Adrianna Ariadne Alan”) It can look like a garbled mess in email, so I’d recommend using periods to differentiate. looks a lot better than

    6. SnappinTerrapin*

      On the other hand, some employers’ software reject email addresses from gmail if you omit the dots. Since I learned gmail doesn’t read the dot, I rarely use it when giving my address, but I have had problems signing into accounts that were linked to my email address. Their system added the dot, and ignored my contention that the account was opened without the dot.

  4. NotADoc*

    LW1: is the medication metformin by chance? Switch to the extended release version and take your whole dose at night. It helps a lot with the GI issues.

    1. Bugalugs*

      Metformin is the worst. The extended release didn’t do anything for me but luckily it wasn’t something I had to be on it just helped control some other symptoms I had from PCOS. The side effects weren’t worth staying on it vs the other symptoms. I did also find taking an imodium every couple of days helped lessen the frequency.

      Hopefully if that’s the LW’s case she can try the extended release.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, LW1, please talk to your doctor and ask if there are any ways to mitigate the side effects of your medication.

    3. Jj*

      I think we should give the OP the benefit of the doubt that they have done all the talking to their Dr they need to do and we are advising them on the specific workplace issue they wrote about. Alison always says to take letters at face value, and this letter specifically said the issue is unresolvable and is just how they will live for the foreseeable future. Giving strangers medication advise online when they didn’t ask for it seems kind of marginal…

      1. Observer*

        I think we should give the OP the benefit of the doubt that they have done all the talking to their Dr they need to do and we are advising them on the specific workplace issue they wrote about.

        I think it’s worth mentioning. The problem is not the OP but their doctor – many doctors are incredibly bad about discussing and ameliorating side effects. If the OP is a woman then that’s true multiple times over.

    4. GigglyPuff*

      I was wondering but didn’t want to overstep on the medical stuff. Also talk to your pharmacy or switch pharmacies, the generics are definitely different. I can’t stand the horrible generic Walgreens in my area gives out, finally had to switch when they couldn’t get my preferred manufacturer in stock.

    5. Professional Cat Lady*

      adding prilosec (generic, omeprazole) with metformin helps too! I could never stay on it for long because I had those same symptoms at ~1/4 of the dose my doc wanted me on.

  5. SafetyFirst*

    OP #5: I have a colleague who joined our small startup, and during the interview process, she used her hyphenated last name. When I asked how she wanted her work email address to read, she told me she was dropping the hyphenated name, and that was pretty much it. We juat made her accounts with the name she wanted.

    If you go to a larger org (or one of any size with very beauracratic IT, once you get an offer, you should make sure you tell the person when accepting the offer that you prefer to go by Janetta Forest for your work accounts. It is much easier tomhave the accounts created with the right names than it is to change them later. It may not matter if you’ve only used the un-hyphenated name in your materials with the company, but if you have a background check or have provided any official identification like a passport or drivers license, that may be what IT uses by default to make your accounts, and they may do it before your first day.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yes, agree! Honestly, the only time I care what your LEGAL name is would be for background checks and anything for tax purposes. Outside that, you can go by whatever name you like. Additionally, it can be nice, although not strictly necessary to put a note with your references that they know you as “X” name, to avoid any confusion.

      1. Ina Lummick*

        (I have changed names in this example.) Had something like this in my team. When James gave their notice and our manager was doing all the prep work, she came out and said “Who’s Geoff?” Turns out Geoff is James’ legal name but everyone has just called him James since he was a kid!!

        1. Jlynn*

          Sounds like my husband. He uses his middle name so if anyone uses his Legal name – he either A doesn’t answer, or B we know it’s a spam call. At work he uses his first initial.middlename = R.James but if anyone uses that full Rname – he won’t answer you. He’s been James since he was a baby because his dad and grandpa had that Rname.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Have a long hyphenated surname and my current firm usually generates logon names and email addresses based on (first initial)(full surname) format but I really don’t want a 20+ character login name. So my logon and email is

      (First name)(initials of hyphenated names)

      Previous firm to this I went by one of my surnames on email address etc but put my full name on my email signature.

      1. English, not American*

        We’ve had one recent hire shorten their incredibly long surname (20+ characters, no hyphen) to just the first three letters in our system. The only person it has confused was me because I didn’t look them up in the directory when I needed their email and assumed the name used on their “welcome our new staff” announcement would work.

        I wish I’d thought of it myself, my name isn’t too long but I get seriously tired of typing nine-letter-firstname.eleven-letter-surname when I log in to my account each morning.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My job’s standard email is firstname.lastname@organization.thing but my first name is obscure and patrons kept spelling it wrong and having emails bounce, so I’m FLastname instead. My last name isn’t so common that there are likely to be two FLastnames in the same place and it’s made everyone’s lives a lot easier.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I went from a four letter last name to hyphenated seven and eight letter names. Instead of setting my login up as RSevenEight or, what I wanted was RSEight, I got RSevenEi :-P

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yikes, if this firm did that I’d end up with a very offensive word in my email address!

          1. Zephy*

            I remember seeing in, I think a Buzzfeed article? some years back, a screenshot from a student named Megan Finger whose university formatted their student email addresses as [last name][first two letters of first name]

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      As a side note to IT everywhere : consider checking with the human before generating the email address. I know people stuck with an address that causes confusion.

      1. Generic Name*

        Or worse, people stuck with a username or email that is distressing to them if it’s a deadname for example.

      2. Tryinghard*

        Good point. I work at an agency that uses your legal name so this wouldn’t even be an option. Thankfully I was hired before the policy was put into place so I can use what my professional first name is but still didn’t have a choice on my last name. People should never assume that HR and IT policies won’t force the use of legal names.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        One of the first things I did in this job (aside from ask where the bogs were) was change things so IT do actually ask, in all cases, what people would like to be referred to as on their email address etc. I’d seen a few issues in the call queue of people being dead named etc.

        Within reason of course. The lad who asked if he could have ‘monkey.magic’ was definitely joking (not even his name, he just loves the show) but it did mean I had to think of guidance for what we could and couldn’t do.

    4. Momma Bear*

      It is very common here to use a “preferred name” for accounts vs legal name. Some companies/large agencies make you use all the names, no exceptions, but I’d just ask for what you actually want and see if IT will set it up that way.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      That’s exactly what I did when I married and changed my name between interview and start date. When they announced I was joining the team, they just included a small note that said “you may remember her as Tina Smith, but she is now Tina Belcher”.

      I honestly don’t think you should even use the extensive phrasing Alison suggests. I would put Janetta Forest on your application materials, and simply make a note at the top of your reference page (or by each relevant reference) saying “knows me as Janetta Forest-Googlesmyth”. If the company requires any kind of background check there will be a space to include any former names you’ve gone by. I promise, OP, this is a much smaller deal than you think it’s going to be! I think you might feel like this is a big deal because of the complicated family issues behind it, but people add/drop/change names all the time. Good luck!

  6. Artemesia*

    Go to HR and say ‘every time we encounter each other at work he makes sexual comments; this is sexual harassment and is creating a hostile work environment.’ When someone does this for the first time, a word should suffice — someone who has had a series of complaints and still does it — no excuse.

    1. virago*

      This is a good idea if OP is in the US.

      But OP weighed in (as OP 2) long after you posted your comment and used spellings that suggest to me that she is from the UK, Canada or Australia. So the term “hostile environment” might not apply legally in her case.

      1. Forrest*

        It’s not exactly the same, but pretty similar in the UK:

        Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The law says it’s sexual harassment if the behaviour is either meant to, or has the effect of:

        violating your dignity, or
        creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

  7. Mia*

    OP #1- I have a similar issue, and I have the same worry about being perceived as a slacker. Actually, of the people I know with chronic health issues, all of us have the same worry! I wish it was more common to talk about accommodations. I’ve seen some mention of it in articles about work from home options, but it’s usually mentioned in passing.

    On a similar note, does anybody know of any good resources or old AAM posts about navigating disability in the workplace? Even though I know the “they’ll think I’m a slacker” worry is pretty common, that doesn’t make it feel less pressing! I wind up pushing myself harder, which exacerbates my symptoms. I’d like to find more information on how to talk about accommodations so I can find a better balance.

    1. lyonite*

      I don’t know if this helps, but I can say that I’m deeply uninterested in my coworkers’ bathroom breaks. I might notice that someone is going in more often than normal, but unless I’m hearing them chat on their phone through the door, I would just register it and move on.

      1. Mia*

        Yeah, it feels like people are watching (especially in an open office) when really no one cares! Work from home has helped address this worry.

      2. Cj*

        If you’re on a production line and are supposed to get breaks every 2 hours or whatever, it’s probably going to get noticed. Working in an office though, it’s probably not even going to register with anyone.

        1. Wendy*

          Yep, agreed. I’ve worked in a lot of offices and never noticed anyone else’s breaks (even when I was often asked to cover the front desk for them). Conversely, I worked in a very small bookstore (5 employees total, usually only one or two of us at a time) and I DEFINITELY noticed when one of my employees started using his bathroom breaks for a smoke, a chat with his girlfriend, a chance to go walk around the mall, etc. :-\

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agree. I don’t know if someone leaves the suite for a meeting or the restroom and I don’t care.

          2. JustaTech*

            Yeah, the only coworker who’s breaks I ever noticed was this one guy who would disappear for extended periods of time and then lie about where he had been. Like, he would say “I’ve been at my desk all morning!” when you’d looked for him three times and his self-darkening glasses were in dark-mode. (That kind of glass only responds to UV light so either he was outside or he was working in the hood with the UV light on which is dangerous and how you get a nasty burn).

            But it wasn’t the absences so much as the lying that were the issue.

        2. Artemesia*

          Small office; close quarters; new employee — yeah ‘she seems to be away from her desk a lot’ is going to be noticed. This is one to probably pre-empt by a short vague conversation with the boss.

      3. Quoth the Raven*

        Yeah, the most I notice is someone is in the restroom if I need to go myself, and even then it’s just like “Oh, someone’s there”. Even if I did notice someone’s going often, I’d assume they have a reason to do so other than slacking off.

    2. Allonge*

      There are any number of jobs where you pick up the phone if you are at your desk and otherwise you call people back; you respond to emails and chat when you can and nobody reasonable will be counting your bathroom breaks – what matters is what you deliver.

      I think the places where there might be an issue are where a major part of the job is presence / on-the-spot availability: e.g. receptionist, executive assistant for someone who has a lot of meetings and people to be herded for these, librarian at a reference desk, security guard, somewhere with frequent meetings etc. In this cases the frequency of the absence is noticed more easily as there are customers / visitors / people standing around waiting for someone to show up or come back.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Office work where people share phone coverage duties is definitely a situation where people notice. Basically any situation where your absence from your desk matters to someone else.

        In the teams I manage, people use Teams throughout the day. Some will say “brb” which is understood to probably be a bathroom break, others just say “rr”. I have found that when people just let someone know they will be away from their desk for a bit, people handle it better.

    3. VI Guy*

      I can see how if someone spends 10 minutes an hour in the bathroom then they would push themselves to work an extra hour to make up for it. Yet none of us work a full day from start to end, we all need to step away from our desks for a bit, so if you do good work while at your desk then that should be what matters.

      I have a coworker who took frequent bathroom breaks. Pre-covid I noticed that if a meeting was longer than an hour then she would excuse herself. The only thought that went through my mind was “Oh, that medical condition sucks, I feel so sorry for her!” She’s smart and an equal contributor, and no one cares if she disappears occasionally. No one said anything behind her back, because we all think really well of her work. I know it is hard to not feel self-conscious, and with some people maybe there is good reason, but if our coworkers and managers are reasonable people then they care about what you do and not the details of how you do it.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        This was exactly my sentiments at a time when a supervisor/mentor had some health struggles that led to frequent restroom breaks. “This sucks for him, hope its only temporary, really hope he’s okay, going to leave him a note that I need to talk about the teapot programming system at his convenience….”

    4. JC*

      I hate to say it, but we had someone in our last team who would disappear frequently for long bathroom breaks – and it was noticed by the team because this person was tasked with time sensitive tasks and was frequently missing when urgently required. He did get a reputation as a “slacker” because we had to cover his work so often, and run around the office looking for him. It was never confirmed or relayed to us that the guy had medical issues until much later when a coworker inquired directly to see why he was away from his desk so much. Once it was widely known we all made an effort to switch tasks and accommodate him- but that was a failure on our managers part for not reassigning his tasks or realising the impact to the team of frequent breaks. I think it’s actually best to notify your manager and hr to make reasonable accommodations if needed, and ensure your team understand the issue and aren’t resentful or thinking badly of you.

  8. Poppy*

    OP 3: I’d definitely recommend either using your partner’s full address or just City, State on your resume. I recently hired for two positions that are heavily community-involved (think grassroots) and had a fairly quick ideal start date, which was mentioned in the job posting. Several candidates had no work experience in our region and a current job in another state, and didn’t address this in their application materials! It was unclear if they already lived in the area or would have had to move, which would have been extremely difficult to make work. Needless to say it was enough to turn us off of interviewing at least one person.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Seconding this! I have had experiences applying for jobs remotely and I’ve ‘borrowed’ a local address. In both cases, I mentioned my transition during the interview process and no one was turned off or acted mislead and I found jobs relatively quickly (and I was not especially in demand).

      I understand not wanting to be deceptive, but in this case I think you’re acting in good faith. You don’t want anything extra nor are you not misleading them about where you intend to live during the work (which can be an issue sometimes). An out-of-state address can get your resume set aside before even have the chance to talk.

      If the ‘borrowed’ address makes you feel uncomfortable, consider adding a line in your cover letter to explain that you’re in the process of relocating.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And if you’re moving to a place you’ve lived before, mention that–“returning I’ve missed it” forstalls worries that newcomers may be dissatisfied and leave quickly.

        1. Ama*

          Yes! I had a candidate do this in a cover letter once, she had at the time an out of state address but mentioned in the cover letter that she had previously lived in our city and was returning later in the year to be near family. That actually was helpful because the job was in a U.S. city that a lot of people think would be cool to live in, but which has a high cost of living and some real limitations for housing if you aren’t super wealthy — I’ve actually run job searches before where an out of state candidate was offered the job and then turned it down once they realized how much their lifestyle would have to change to live here full time. Knowing the candidate knew what she was getting into and was going to be moving to the city regardless of whether she got our job helped set any worries about that aside.

          Sadly, the position that particular candidate was applying for ended up being cut before we could even bring people in for an interview, thanks to some unforeseen circumstances, but she was definitely on the list of people we were planning to bring in before things fell apart.

    2. Momma Bear*

      We’re hiring now and honestly I just want to know how to contact someone. Phone and email is fine. Several resumes have only used city/state.

  9. seriously*

    I used to teach at a trade school, and I used one of my own old cover letters (from when I was new to the profession) as an example for my students, after changing the name of the company and a few other details for privacy. I wanted them to see that the cover letter was very customized to the company I’d been applying to — it mentioned things I had particularly admired about that company, and conveyed reasons I would be a good fit. And I wanted the students to see that even though their resume wouldn’t have any job history in their new field yet, they could use their cover letter to make a good impression.

    Their assignment was to prepare their own resume + cover letter, tailoring their cover letter either to a real business or an imaginary one. I reminded them to be specific about reasons they personally would be a good fit for whatever company their letter was addressed to.

    I was amazed at how many students typed up my exact words and submitted my own letter back to me in their assignment. One person even asked me to email my letter to them, to save them the effort of typing it!

    1. 10Isee*

      This sounds like an incredibly helpful class, and I wonder if any of your former students are kicking themselves now for not putting more effort into the assignment.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      Makes you wonder if to them “customizing” meant changing the font – how else do you miss the point this badly?

    3. Smithy*

      It’s a real bummer but from one class I had in grad school – a bummer I kind of empathize with.

      As part of a grant writing exercise, we were supposed to write a mock concept note. For those of us not working, we could pick any organization or make one up, and the concept note template was a generic one and not one tied to a specific donor. And it was an incredibly difficult task due to not be very grounded in reality. If you picked a random nonprofit, it was hard to know when it was acceptable to just copy/paste their text (i.e. an organization’s mission statement) as a way of showing you understand the concept vs evaluating your own writing.

      The main difference with the cover letter/resume exercise is that the students should have been creating their own resumes based on their very real lives. I do wonder if part of the task had demanded that students to find actual job postings. Because even if the job in question was concrete – knowing more about the a real company makes that level of personalization easier. For a student thinking “I’ll make up an entry level job at Blah” is actually far harder than looking through job postings for 15 or so minutes, and then focusing on how to tailor a letter to that job description.

      And that’s a lesson I only learned after banging my head against a wall with an assignment I thought would help me.

    4. The Rural Juror*

      My freshman year in college, I was taking the required English class and there was an assignment where we had to pick a partner and read each other’s essays and make suggestions for better writing. The professor was very adamant that we should not and could not copy anything from our partner’s essay (duh!). Well, the person I ended up with never sent me theirs to read, then ended up copying most of my essay. I don’t understand how they thought they could get away with it! Did they not realize there would be TWO of the same thing submitted by different people?! People, especially students, can be so dense sometimes. Geez!

      1. Clisby*

        When I went back to school to get a computer science degree (not usually thought of as a hotbed of plagiarism), a professor told us of one case where a student fished a printout of another student’s code out of the trash, duplicated it, and turned it in. To the extent that when the professor ran the program to see whether it worked, it printed out a header with … the name of the student who actually did the work. Oddly enough, this person was found out.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Plagiarism is more common in software development than you’d think. I once helped another student with her homework–not yet knowing that the solution that looked obvious to me was actually a moonshot–and we were accused. The only reason we both weren’t thrown out of the class and school was that I had taught her, not just given her the solution, so she could and did explain articulately what every line of code in the program was doing and why it was needed/appropriate.

          At the end of the semester, I discussed the incident with the teacher as a course post-mortem and he told he sees dozens of times where plagiarism is suspected each semester. It was common enough there were procedures and standards for it.

          It flies under the radar a lot because voice can be more subtle in code than in regular prose. I code in a very old style, so my code ends up distinctive.

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

          Wow, that takes me way back. I had a computer programming class in high school, back in the days of BASIC and DOS, and we saved our work on floppy disks left in the classroom. Someone in a different hour picked my disk out of the caddy and copied it. The teacher let me know for some reason that someone had copied my disk. Oddly I felt a little flattered because I was one of the only girls in the computer programming class and there was a lot of “girls can’t understand computers” attitude back in those days.

  10. Chc34*

    LW5: If the version of your email that you’re worried people might “correct” to is available, make an account with it too and just set it to redirect to your actual one. My email includes my unusually spelled middle name and I also reserved the version with the more common spelling.

    1. PostalMixup*

      Yep, this. My last name has the German double-n ending (*****mann) and I nearly missed an important email that got sent to *****man@gmail. So I grabbed the one-n email address and set it to auto-forward to the correctly-spelled one. Haven’t missed an important email since (at least, not for this reason!).

      1. caroline*

        exact same situation here, but with a swedish -sson name being spelled -son. Fortunately, the lastname is unusual even with the double-s, so I’ve grabbed both versions on gmail. Too bad it won’t work for OP.

        OP5 : you can also register your own domain to make it easier to create a easy-to-spell-out, hard-to-get-wrong email address. A domain goes for $10-15 a year if you only want email forwarding. I set one up for my family just because I couldn’t be bothered remembering their actual email addresses …

    2. Julia*

      This is a good thought, but odds are it’s not available – otherwise OP wouldn’t have had to take the one with her middle initial; she’d just have gone with janettaforest.

    3. Cormorannt*

      I have this issue and it’s never been much of a problem. My work email is fist initial, middle initial, last name with no punctuation, all lowercase letters. I always spell out the entire name if I’m giving it out verbally “I’m, that’s b (pause) g (pause) g-o-o-d-r-i-c-h at” (note: not my actual name). Sometimes people will say “two g’s?” and I confirm yes, two g’s. If I write it down for someone, I will say “thereare two g’s”. Mostly people get it from the address book or are replying to an email I’ve sent, so they aren’t typing it in from scratch. It never occurred to me to have IT set up as an alias since it honestly hasn’t been an issue. If that email address is available, that would be a good solution, but honestly it’s not something I’d spend that much time worrying about.

  11. Cj*

    Re cover letter plageriam: there are two parts to what was quoted as being plagerized in the resume, and I can where they would think that if it was copied exactly that way. However, “I thrive in an environment where no two days are exactly the same” doesn’t seem to me to be something that more than one person wouldn’t have come up with. I certainly could have, without ever seeing it here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You shortened it! It’s not what you wrote. It’s the full wording here, word for word:
      “I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same.”

      (I googled it; that precise wording is now all over the internet in people’s LinkedIn profiles, online resumes, etc.)

      1. Cj*

        That’s why I said there are basically two parts to what was quoted, and that does seem like it was copied. The single sentence at the end that doesn’t seem that unique to me. So I hope if employers are judging what they see they do realize that more than one person can use the same wording and not have it be copied.

      2. Guilty follower*

        OMG, I googled it and it is crazy how that letter is EVERYWHERE and that sentence is so overused it lost its meaning, really.

        I feel awful that I have taken from this blog the beginning (“I am happy to apply for the position of…”) and the ending (“I look forward to have the chance to discuss the contributions I can make as…”) for my cover letters, because in the end it is copying.

        The best thing about the advise on cover letters is that, applying it, once you have your 6-7 points (even if you think you should copy something or someone from here), when you come across a job posting and want to say why would you fit and exceed at the role, applying the advice makes the letter come out naturally, your own voice just tells you what to say and anything from any other letter seems artificial.

        1. mreasy*

          These two examples just seem like a way to express this though – “I am happy to apply for…” or “I look forward to the chance to discuss the contributions I can make” are just good ways to phrase it. You aren’t plagiarizing – there are only so many ways to say “I am applying for x” and “I hope you will call me”!

        2. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, don’t feel bad about that. I doubt there’s a single way to phrase “I’m applying for X” that you couldn’t find verbatim on the internet somewhere.

    2. atma*

      I came in to say this – “I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same” isn’t extremely unique. I once read a story about two rock musicians, one of them would write a song, and the other would stop him, “This song already exists!” – he had subconsciously picked songs up and then thought he wrote them himself! This could easily be the same thing.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s … not. See above. Also, I don’t think that applies to most word-for-word copying of sentences. I can google most sentences from nearly anything I’ve written and immediately pull it up that way as the only search result (unless it’s an unusually short/basic sentence) as long as it’s in quotes so it’s only looking for that exact arrangement of words. (But also … I’ve had these exact letters from AAM sent to me. Full letters, multiple paragraphs, no changes. It’s really common. I’m not sure why people are looking for another explanation.)

        1. ecnaseener*

          Probably traumatized from anti-plagiarism software schools use that flags you for every three-word phrase it can find ;P

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            *raises hand* I’ve had enough bad experiences with anti-plagiarism software that the entire concept of plagiarism has lost its meaning to me.

            1. KayDeeAye*

              Well, it shouldn’t have. I don’t mean to be harsh, but it really shouldn’t have. There is a huge and obvious difference between finding a three-word phrase here and there repeated and finding whole sentences and important thoughts repeated, usually including each and every comma and semicolon. It’s the difference between “seven years ago” and “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation”; between “I have a dream” and “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

              Software makes mistakes, and so do people, but really and truly, plagiarism is usually incredibly overt and obvious. You do not have to worry about being considered a plagiarist unless you, you know, plagiarize. It’s not a question about deciding if it’s OK to say “Happy families are all alike.” That’s a slightly unusual thought, but probably not completely unique. But “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is clearly unique and an obvious plagiarism, and yes, plagiarists truly are that obvious!

              1. Observer*

                This is not a matter of “software making mistakes”. This is a matter of poorly programmed software, using “rules” about plagiarism that turn the concept into a joke, implemented by people who simply won’t do the work needed to make this reasonable.

                I’m not arguing that Alison’s work is not being plagiarized. I’m sure it is. But when people are telling you that they have had experience with software that flags whole essays and multi-page papers as plagiarized because of the use of individual short sentences or phrases, don’t dismiss that and claim that this is not what happened.

                Let me point out that we’re seeing a replay of this problem with the software that supposedly designed to find behavior “proof” of cheating on tests. People are complaining that they get flagged for cheating when they look away from the screen for more than 10 seconds and they get the same speech you just typed out – except that this IS in fact what is happening. The “overt” behavior does turn out to be stuff like that – stuff that really has nothing to do with cheating, but is used as a proxy because it’s easier and “better be safe than sorry” (except that it’s NOT safe).

                1. Spicy Tuna*

                  I agree! The sticking point for me is that people who are accused have no way to prove that they did not actually cheat, short of the accuser changing their mind.

                2. Guacamole Bob*

                  Spicy Tuna, you’re right that sometimes its not provable, but fortunately sometimes it is! My brother got pulled into an inquiry in college where he and a classmate turned in suspiciously similar work for a computer science assignment – and they were able to track the file creation and modification history to show that my brother had created the file first, edited it over time, and then his classmate’s version had popped into existence right before it was due, fully-formed.

                  Of course this was in ~1998 and they didn’t have a very good structure around file storage – I think they were all doing their assignments in some shared network folder or something, which looks pretty dumb from the vantage point of 2021. But file modification tracking has also improved.

              2. Spicy Tuna*

                Ok, I should have added more context in my comment. I agree that the examples you wrote are pretty obvious. My experience with it was primarily in coding classes, where 15 groups of 3-4 students were trying to develop code to produce the same result. We repeatedly had 4-5 groups get flagged for plagiarizing because we had sections of code the looked “suspiciously similar” to one another. Of course we did! We’re all trying to reach the same result. But short of recording video of our group meetings, we had no way to prove that we didn’t collude with other groups. So across multiple college courses under different professors, I was involved in groups of different iterations of students that had to fight against this with basically no proof. Transcripts revised, threats of failure retracted. It was a nightmare.

                Plagiarism is a unique concept that puts the reader in a position to impose massive consequences on the writer, who literally cannot prove their innocence. The intensity towards it in our culture has always been over the top in my mind, and after the experiences I described above, I’m just numb to it.

                1. KayDeeAye*

                  I have no experience with coding – and I’m OK with that! :-) – but with writing, I can assure you that once you have one literate human looking at another human’s writing (emphasis on “human”), plagiarism is almost always obvious. My examples above are fictional, but truly, plagiarism is usually just as obvious as those examples. It’s not just a phrase here and there; it is complete thoughts, and it’s usually several complete thoughts. I strongly recommend that you don’t take experiences with bad software or misplaced suspicions about a section or two of code as proof that the concept of plagiarism is invalid. It’s a real and genuine problem. And I suspect it can’t be solved by software, at least not with the limitations we have on software now.

                2. Observer*

                  @KayDeeAye I hear what you are saying. What people are telling you is that a LOT of plagiarism accusations are NOT based on solid human review. They are based on software that uses many questionable methods.

                  I can also tell you that ANY program or person who treats the similarity of code, especially with fairly basic tasks, as an indicator of plagiarism is not someone whose judgement I would ever trust here. Because it IS exactly like saying that a few similar (or same) phrases show plagiarism.

                3. KayDeeAye*

                  I get that, I do. But with plagiarism in writing, the answer isn’t to ignore a real problem (either with under-detection or over-detection). It’s to fix the problem. And that means using humans to either check these things before making accusations – or to write better software.

                  And I am really sorry to hear about the issues with detecting plagiarized code. If the system for detecting plagiarism is as deeply flawed as it sounds, it’s time to come up with an entirely new system – easier said than done, I realize.

                4. Spicy Tuna*

                  Agree that software alone is a method that’s flawed at best. I’m also baffled at how painful the process is to exonerate yourself and why the consequences are so immediately intense. People go through way less to get away with worse things – see letter 2 of this very post. So yeah, it’s left me a little salty.

        2. Czhorat*

          This dovetails with my thoughts on the “magic question” discussion – your communication style is your own.
          “I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same” is somewhat distinct stylistically and might not match the applicant’s actual style. In addition to being ethically questionable (at best), this is creating a false expectation which, when a hiring manager has a conversation with you, will at the very lease raise an eyebrow.

          It reminds me of when I was single and dating online; I remember seeing a very thoughtful and well-written profile on a dating site (Match? Something like that). When I matched with the person and started talking her style was NOTHING at all like what she had written about herself. Either she put on a mask when she wrote the profile, had someone else Cyrano de Bergerac it, or is just very different long-form than in shorter conversation. In any event, I felt disappointed and let down. That’s not the impression you want to give a hiring manager. Be yourself (your professional self, but yourself nontheless) and you’ll not have to worry about keeping the act going.

          It’s ok to learn the general idea and structure of a cover letter from an example, but taking it word-for =-word is not good.

      2. Myrin*

        I don’t understsand why that line of argument gets brought out every single time the topic of people plagiarising AAM cover letters arises – if you’ve ever seriously dealt with plagiarism (I have for a few years in an academic environment) you know that it’s generally incredibly obvious when people have copied something vs. when they’ve just heard something somewhere and it kinda stuck with them. Like. Really obvious.

        (Also, that sequence of words is pretty unique. Certainly not something that is impossible for someone else to think up, too, but let’s not kid ourselves – the likelihood that someone came up with that exact, word-for-word sentence, semicolon and all, independently from AAM’s example? Pretty much zero.)

        1. Freya*

          I had the distinction, a few short years ago, of submitting an assignment to my university’s automated plagiarism checker, and getting 0% plagiarised as my result. Including the bibliography! I honestly thought that that was impossible, because the plagiarism checker usually flags half the bibliography, because we all use the same great sources…

        2. Jack Straw*


          As a former English teacher, I will tell you it is definitely obvious when something is plagiarized. The tone and voice shift, word choice changes—it’s obvious. I honestly can’t think of one time I suspected a student of plagiarism and wasn’t proven right when I put some of the lines into Google surrounded by quotation marks.

          1. Artemesia*

            This. I actually had a student plagiarize on quals for the doctorate; he was retaking after flunking the first time. I read his first day effort and it was obvious to me that he must have snuck a disc in with canned material and then adapted it to the case study in the question. So the next day I had someone go into the exam room (with its sanitized computers and no devices allowed) and confiscate the disc in the machine. And there it was a disc filled with canned material related to the subject of the exam from which he was copying paragraphs.

          2. KayDeeAye*

            Back when I edited a newspaper with an opinion page, I used to have to check for plagiarism with letters to the editor, which are often at least partly plagiarized or – nearly as bad, IMO – have been written by someone else and then sent out to an organization’s board of directors or something with the request that each person “Send this to your local media!” (Letters to the editor are supposed to represent the thoughts of the writer, not of the writer’s marketing person.)

            Anyway, I think people who haven’t dealt with plagiarism just don’t realize how obvious it usually is, and they’re picturing someone being penalized for a very slight or minor similarity. But the reality is, when people plagiarize, they don’t just steal a four-word phrase – they steal whole thoughts and sentences, and sometimes even more than that. Lots of people have noted that the best way to write is to force yourself to write But only Ernest Hemingway wrote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” Only Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” I wouldn’t penalize someone who says that sometimes writing is painful, or even if they compare it to turning on a faucet. But pretending that “All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed” is your own unique thought? Plagiarism, pure and simple. And yes, that’s exactly what a plagiarist does.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, the semicolon jumped out at me, too. I’d bet that many people who are lifting this bit wholesale are not likely to be dropping correctly-used semicolons into the remainder of their cover letters. The semicolon in a statement that’s otherwise slightly conversational in tone (“wear many hats”, the enthusiasm of the word “thrive”) is part of what makes this so distinctive – and so effective for the original author because it conveys her authentic voice. But it would easily make it seem out of place when dropped into someone else’s cover letter.

          1. Czhorat*

            YES. And even if the hiring manager doesn’t catch on that it’s plagiarized (perhaps because the entire thing is copy/pasted) what happens when you try to communicate about the details of the job and the applicant suddenly has a vastly different style than that on their cover letter? This is all the hiring manager has seen of you thus far, so there’s nothing else on which they can base expectations. If you start not matching them it could easily get you off on the wrong foot.

        4. Lora*

          Yup. Used to teach at Big State University. It was a culture shock as my undergrad and one of my graduate universities were quite harsh about plagiarism and academic integrity – at a bare minimum you’d get an F on your transcript that couldn’t be erased by re-taking the class, and if the professor didn’t like you for some other reason or you didn’t have wealthy parents sending a lawyer to argue with the dean on your behalf, there was a nonzero chance you’d be expelled. Big State University in contrast gave a 0 for the particular assignment on the first offense, a 0 for the class on the second offense, and then they’d consider some sort of suspension on the third offense. If Big State U had been as strict as my undergrad, they’d have been forced to expel about half their students.

          Now, fair’s fair: a LOT of overseas students came from cultures where plagiarism as we understand it, is not a thing. They got through all of high school and occasionally a couple years of college being told explicitly to copy other people’s work as a means of learning the best way to write via imitation. They have literally never ever had to write something original, and are completely flummoxed both by the “everything you write has to be in your own words” and the “the exams in the middle of the semester count towards your grade, you have to show up for quizzes and labs not just for the final” and the language parts all at once. But, this is definitely explained to them and they agree to it, so…

          Mostly it’s the whole Group School Project phenomenon carried over into adulthood I think: people will try to avoid doing their own work at all costs, and shove it off onto anyone they think they can.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Now, fair’s fair: a LOT of overseas students came from cultures where plagiarism as we understand it, is not a thing.

            Yep. I know someone who advised a lot of international students and had to explain to them that while this is fine and even expected back home, you cannot do it here.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “They probably plagiarize in business writing themselves and have normalized it as a practice. ”

              In business writing withing an organization there should be a LOT of re-using existing material. It saves time and can increase quality. I’m not saying taking credit as the original author, but not wasting time re-creating things that have already been done well and that there is a legal right to use.

              1. Mockingjay*

                I often call technical writing ‘legal plagiarism.’ Yes, we do copy and paste quite a lot, but that’s to keep things consistent within a particular engineering project. We don’t reuse it for the next project, because that one usually has different parameters to meet. If we do want to reuse data and documents for another project, we must have PERMISSION IN WRITING FIRST.

                Basic rule across all industries: Thou shall not copy without permission.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                I write a lot of things, especially to senior people in my organization, with the intention that they copy/paste them wholesale into other things – reuse of business writing isn’t really plagiarism (though we jokingly call it that – “please plagiarize this liberally!”) because the work product you create at work belongs to the employer. (I love it when people send me my own language to use – it means it’s good and worth re-using.)

                I see that as entirely different than academic plagiarism or copying a cover letter (that Alison pretty clearly states does not belong to them and should not be copied) someone else wrote and passing it off as your own work.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Exactly. There is no reason for me to try and re-phrase things like an experimental protocol or all of the bits that don’t change from report to report.

                  But those are 1) internal 2) often things that *I* have written 3) literally must be the same every time or 4) are a continuation of an ongoing project.

                  I can’t crib the results section from anything because that changes every time, as does the discussion, but there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when describing the background of the thing I am studying for the 15th time.

            2. Lora*

              Definite down side to letting it slide though: Have several colleagues from those cultures, and they have a VERY hard time getting new jobs and then staying in them when it becomes obvious that their communication skills in English and especially their writing skills are crap and they’ve been copy/pasting from other people. Because, bringing it back to the subject at hand: they can’t write a cover letter or presentation. Or, they spend many hours piecing together stuff they find on the internet to make a passable cover letter, but then when they get further into the selection process or actually in the job for several months, it’s discovered that they can’t write technical papers or presentations on their own, in anything like a timely fashion, which the company lawyers will approve for publication. Either they simply don’t publish, keep their heads down and hope nobody notices their lack of output (doesn’t last) or they can’t get hired anywhere else due to not having publications of any kind even within the company, or they plagiarize a colleague and get called out on it, or the stark difference in “the person we thought we were hiring” and “the person we actually hired” is so obvious that they are relegated to a back office, transferred around and potentially put on a layoff list for not being able to communicate effectively.

              There’s also a strong component of not quite understanding that speaking or writing imperfectly but in your own words is more valuable than speaking and writing the Queen’s English but plagiarizing. Have had to explain that one repeatedly – nearly everyone has an accent or voice that will be held against them in some way, including other native English speakers and writers, but much more critical is that your ideas are your own. Originality is not the same as risk taking; originality has its own value.

        5. Mynona*

          Well, the few commenters defending the plagiarist don’t seem to be terribly experienced writers–no sense of continuity of voice, sentence construction, etc. They probably plagiarize in business writing themselves and have normalized it as a practice. The phrasing of that sentence is clearly too unique for another writer to simply invent it, word for word.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think we can take the letter writers word that there is sufficient evidence there.

        And, FWIW – it is surprisingly unusual to recreate an entire sentences word-for-word (think of how many famous movie quotes are actually incorrect, or how hard it is to memorize a poem exactly). We tend to remember meanings/tone, but not exact wording.

        Your example is a good reminder that we’re not as original as we think, but the way we store/recall/parse melodies is different to how our mind parses/stores language.

      4. Student*

        Note the use of the semicolon. I love the semicolon; I also know it is not common usage. It’s pretty easy to look at someone’s general writing and figure out if they are a semicolon person or not (same goes for parenthetical people).

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The thing I’ve wondered about sharing cover letters is…well *I* re-use some of my phrases from one letter to the next.
      The person who wrote that ideal cover letter might now be automatically excluded because it’s assumed to be plagiarism.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I assume that’s why Alison is careful to be clear with the authors before she posts the letters about what’s likely to happen.

        1. Smithy*


          For a start, I don’t think that my cover letters are all that amazing. I know that my personal writing weakness is around attention to detail – that can mean catching a sentence later with “a the” or reusing a word like opportunity three sentences in a row. To truly feel confident that my cover letters are in a good place, my approach has been to have a few solid templates that require minimal customization per job.

          There are places for me to customize the specific job, employer and employer’s mission – but I’m really trying to keep my required editing to a minimum. The overall product has been clean and functional, but I can’t imagine AAM being wowed. That being said, I’ve spent a lot of time getting a system that works for me and is personalized enough to get the majority of initial interviews I believe makes sense.

          And I have no desire to completely start over.

          1. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

            Agreed. When I was applying for jobs, I routinely copied and pasted different segments/paragraphs from *my own* cover letters.

            On your related point, every time I send something important (cover letters; personal correspondence; high-impact work e-mails) I run it through a text-to-speech program. It can be very difficult to catch errors in your own writing, even if you have advanced proofreading skills as I do).

  12. Virginia Plain*

    OP2 – just adding to the chorus of “it’s not you”. I’m female and have been lucky* enough not to have experienced any sexual trauma in life and very little sexism at work, and those comments would be unacceptable to me and throughout my workplace
    *lucky is not quite the right word is it, I mean surely we should expect an absence of sexism and sexual assault as the default, but you know what I’m driving at.

    OP5: Alison’s advice is great, and of course it’s professional of you to make sure everything is clear, but I feel like in general terms you are giving yourself a bit of a hard time on this. Where I have dabbled in recruitment (paper sifts, interviewing) and in dealing with new staff/colleagues, I feel like the onus is on me and my company to get people’s names and contact details right, call them what they want to be called etc. I don’t think a reasonable company, should there be a minor glitch, will blame you or have the attitude of, you have made this more difficult for us by changing your name.
    I once had a telephone interview booked (I was the panel chair) and the number provided had a mistake in. I emailed the candidate, she replied straightaway and we got on with it. I don’t know if it was her mistake or the system had mangled it and frankly I didn’t care. I certainly didn’t hold it against her in some way; I just wanted her to get the interview she’d earned.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you! It was very hard for me to judge because sadly there is a culture that supports that in my place of work and everyone seemed to think I was overreacting.

      1. Allypopx*

        If HR isn’t helpful you might be in “your job sucks and isn’t going to change” territory. That’s not acceptable in any way it just…is. In that case I’d strongly consider whether or not you want to stay.

      2. Observer*

        This is why I think that you need to find a new job. Yes, it would be good to get this stopped, as well. But the culture is toxic, even if that happens. It’s really warping your sense of normal in an unhealthy way, it seems to me.

  13. Ludo*


    I do like to use the “magic question” I learned abohr from this site at the end of interviews and always grt a good response, but I do sometimes worry the person interviewing me will recognize it from here lol

    1. Eliza*

      I think that’s a bit of a different thing; you’re not being evaluated on your ability to come up with original questions, and it’s very normal for people to do research on what questions to ask in an interview.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, part of the point of a cover letter is to get a sense of who you are in relation to the job (why you want it, how you communicate in writing, etc.). A really good cover letter can be incredibly helpful, especially for writing-based or communication-type positions.

        Cover letters are about you and what distingishes you. Whereas most questions have to do with clarifying what the job is like. Very different people will want answers to similar questions across a wide range of jobs and fields.

    2. Global Cat Herder*

      I have been part of the interview panel when candidates have used questions that are obviously from here. There’s absolutely nothing weird about it, only recognition of a shared interest that doesn’t impact the candidacy, like suddenly finding out we both knit: “If this person gets hired, we can talk about (yarn / cheap rolls) when we run into each other at the coffee machine.”

      1. Lizy*

        Ooohhhhh I wonder if interviewers would drop in an AAM comment in their interview… like “if you had a coworker bring cheap ass rolls, how would you respond?”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or even make it behavioral. “Tell me about a time when a coworker brought cheap ass rolls. How did you respond?”

    3. Czhorat*

      You also can and should tweak it to fit your style and the situation.

      Perhaps, “What do you think sets apart an exceptional Llama Herder and a merely very good one in your organization?”

      The last job for which I currently interviewed is for an independent group within a larger company; in this case I might say “your team” rather than “your organization” because that fits better. If you seem to be reciting something you’ve memorized – especially if it clashes with your tone for the rest of the interview – that could land awkwardly.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Yes, that’s what I’ve done. I try to make it specific to the role (as much as I can) and make it more conversational in tone. I think that actually helps the interviewer answer it, if it comes about as an organic part of the conversation.

        I’m a hiring manager as well, and I’ve turned it around as a question for candidates. Mostly I ask it when we get to the questions about what they are looking for in a manager.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I do this – the specific phrasing of the magic question here is not well-suited to my voice, so I changed up the specific words to come up with something that asks the same question but the way I would naturally ask it.

        It was interesting to read the comments on the recent post about this question failing – a lot of people go hung up on the exact wording of the question rather than the intent, which is a very easy problem to solve and doesn’t mean the question itself is bad.

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

    OP4 (cover letters): IMO it’s fair for applicants to be “missing out on opportunities” if their approach to generating work/writing is to just plagiarise it!

  15. Audrey Puffins*

    LW #5: I type in a lot of email addresses from scratch, and I often see ones that do look like a typo (I recently had to email someone whose email address was equivalent to When I think it looks like someone’ ha misspelled their own email address, then my default is to use exactly what they’ve provided but make a note that if they don’t reply within a couple of days then I might need to call them to double-check. It’s a two-layer thing – the nice version of me is assuming that the person providing the information does know what they’re doing, even if it looks wrong to my eyes, and the mean version of me figures that if something is going to go wrong, then my ass is more covered if I can show that the error was on someone else’s part. ;)

  16. Evelyn with no E*

    OP5, about that extra letter in the email address: I have a similar issue, in that my name is Evelyn E. Smith; I go by Evelyn Smith but the email address is evelyne.smith. When I give my email address, I normally underline “ne.” It draws people’s attention to the extra letter, shows it’s not a type, and causes minimal fuss.

    Maybe that helps for you too :)

    1. Zoela Zana Linnmann*

      My real name is in this pattern: Zoela Zana Linnmann. Lots of letters repetition that makes it hard to spell over my phone for takeout, but as far as I know it’s never prevented me from getting called / emailed for a job! Don’t sweat it too much, really.

    2. Another Middle Name Email*

      This is a good suggestion. My email address includes a middle initial (and if that initial is omitted, the email goes to my husband’s cousin with the same first and last name). I have found that HR does not always simply copy and paste as you’d imagine – I once even had a job offer sent to the cousin instead of me.

      My solution is to capitalize my middle initial (e.g. janettaFforest). There are also some email providers, Gmail included, with which you can add a period and it will not alter the address, so you could see if something like janetta.f.forest would work for you.

    3. Julia*

      I learned from elsewhere in this comment section that Gmail ignores periods, so why not use evelyn.e.smith to minimize confusion?

      1. Jlynn*

        Use Underscores instead of periods. Less likely to be overlooked, but still do the same. i.e. Jannetta_F_Forest@domain. I’ve done that for years and even my work email is set that way. Saves a lot of headaches.

    4. Mid*

      I do the same. I have a common last name with a unique spelling (think Johnston instead of Johnson) and I underline the weird letter so people see it.

    5. Jessica*

      seconding these recommendations!
      I have the “firstnamelastname” email address at gmail for my name and I get emailed job interview requests, recruiter contacts, job related emails, etc intended for other people with my name regularly enough that its become a running gag on my social media.

      Do something to emphasize the middle initial (the period trick would work well) as otherwise you are likely to lose mail to people who simply don’t notice that their were two ffs, not one.

  17. Twisted Lion*

    LW3: My boss who does hiring definitely looks at addresses and will choose local people over someone in another state. Either leave it off or use your boyfriends.

  18. Susan from HR*

    Sorry you’re dealing with this, LW2.

    In addition to going to HR, LW2 should also start keeping a log of inappropriate things the harasser does. Not necessarily in journalistic detail, but a date or approximate date and what exactly he said. She should also log every time she reports the harassment to a supervisor or HR and what she reported. This stuff will start blurring together eventually and if anyone takes your report seriously, it will be helpful to be able to identify exactly what harasser has done and when.

  19. Lizy*

    OP4- I’m kinda shocked at how people don’t know what plagiarism is, really. I think a lot of people think they’re not copying the whole thing, so it’s fine, right? I had to explain to my high-schooler a while back that you can’t just change one word in a sentence – it has to be entirely rewritten in your own words. So he started using the synonyms tool and picking other words. Dude, no. (The first time, the word he changed was “the” to “a”. I could not side-eye him hard enough on that one…)

    1. Myrin*

      I unironically love that you just referred to your son using “Dude, no.” – I’m literally laughing out loud over here.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Ha! That didn’t even ping for me until you mentioned it because “dude” is a common part of my vocabulary. My spouse calls getting me and one of my siblings together a “dude-fest” because it’s so prevalent in our conversations. I call my kids “dude” all the time. :)

    2. Mental Lentil*

      I saw a tweet from an English teacher whose student had obviously used a thesaurus in their paper on 1984 because he had changed “Big Brother Is Watching You” to “Large Sibling Is Observing You”.

      I love this stuff.

    3. JustaTech*

      I’ve also seen people go the other way: calling things plagerism when you’re playing off someone else’s work. In college I had written an essay about AI in fiction and I titled it “The Measure of Machine” which was a take off of the title of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that I referenced in the essay.

      At lunch I shared the title with friends, thinking it was clever and they insisted that I had plagiarized and I was a monster and I had to go to the computer lab right this instant and either change the title or put a footnote on it or I would be thrown out of school. (I added a footnote, but I was pretty upset with my friends that they didn’t think this was fair use, even though the professor agreed that it was fine.)

  20. Crivens!*

    If anyone needs to hear this:

    People will tell you creeps like the one LW #2 is dealing with are “harmless”. They will minimize what is being done. They will tell you to just ignore it. They will tell you the creeps don’t have bad intentions.

    They are lying.

    Creeps ARE doing harm. Making people uncomfortable this way is harm. Creeps usually escalate. Creeps thrive on society just letting their behavior slide. Creeps know what they’re doing and they have bad intentions.

    1. Observer*

      Add that he’s not just making sexualized comments, but ones with a very violent overtone AND that he has already escalated to stalking her.

      1. OP2*

        To be fair, I think the “stalking” me thing was partially a joke, partially to intimidate me a little, I don’t think he’s actually stalking me.

        1. Idril Celebrindal*

          Unfortunately, the fact that he is making that “joke” means that his mind is already on that possibility. He already went out of his way to watch you and follow you, so this kind of comment is designed to test the waters and see if you’ll stay quiet and accept this escalation and then he’ll go further. These “jokes” are calculated, to see how much he can get away with while still having the plausible deniability of “it’s just a joke.” If the joke succeeds, he’ll move on to doing it for real.

          I would really caution you to take this seriously, because this is an escalation, this is grooming behavior, and this is a sign that it’s already getting worse.

          1. Lora*

            THIS. EXACTLY THIS.

            “Jokes” == boundary testing. Finding out what they can get away with. Finding out who agrees with them or will at least turn a blind eye. Who will brush off their behavior as not a big deal, who will make an excuse and when it all goes sideways will throw their hands in the air and say “oh gosh, who could have possibly known, not me with these records of his previous behaviors”. It turns out, one of those people is your boss.

            This guy is trouble. He should have been fired yesterday.

        2. Forrest*

          I respect that difference and understand why it’s important to recognise that he’s not ACTUALLY stalking you. But you know who escalates to stalking? Men who make jokes about stalking you because they enjoy intimidating you.

          We’re trained to minimise and downplay this stuff right up until something *really* bad happens, at which point is switching to, “but why didn’t she …?”

        3. Observer*

          , partially to intimidate me a little, I don’t think he’s actually stalking me.

          It doesn’t matter if he’s officially “stalking” you just because or if he went after you to intimidate you. Actually, that’s not really accurate – trying to intimidate you is WORSE. And the two are also not mutually exclusive! Keep in mind that he DID follow you!

          Please, you are not OVERLY sensitive at all. You are making waaaaay too many excuses for him. These are not “small” comments, and the are a big deal!

    2. meyer lemon*

      And usually the whole point is to make the other person uncomfortable and afraid so they can feel some gross sense of power. It’s a deliberately malicious behaviour that is having its intended effect.

      Saying “He’s just a creep” when someone stalks and sexually harasses you is like saying “He’s just an arsonist” when someone sets your desk on fire.

  21. Mollie Paige*

    OP2: Just a word of encouragement from a fellow survivor. Remember, your history doesn’t necessarily make you overly sensitive as most people would have us believe. It can make our responses happen differently than we would like. Your experiences have given you a super power- you know what not ok looks and sounds like before other people might. It helps me to remind myself that research indicates that people who seek to harm can identify those who have been hurt. Then, I do a short meditation and when I’m calm, really think about what the issue is and what I want and need without considering the impact on the creep. Then I tell someone I trust, adjust if I want to and sleep on it. After that, I take a deep breath and go for it.

    I know that’s really long and sounds overly simplistic, but having that process in place helps me feel safe and confident. Then I can report or call out inappropriate behavior as it happens, because I have already planned a response to “oh your history just makes you sensitive.” My go to response is: or it helps me identify creepy behavior and protect myself and others. Either way, please stop.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Also important: even if you are more sensitive than most people in your emotional response, that doesn’t mean that your understanding is wrong.

      I know trauma survivors who have strong emotional reactions to commonplace behaviour (shouts/yells at a football match, for example, or being startled when they thought they were alone). But even if they’re more sensitive to these situations, they can still assess intellectually what’s going on and respond accordingly.

      Just because you feel strongly, it doesn’t mean that you’re being irrational. Visa-versa also true: just because someone is is calm, it doesn’t follow that they’re necessary rational/correct.

    2. JillianNicola*

      Most of the time, the best course of action IS the simplistic one. I like your approach a lot.

  22. Tib*

    OP2, I wonder if the two previous women worked more closely with the creep, since the solution was to move them to different departments. You don’t work with this guy at all, he’s harassing you in common areas, so moving you to a different department isn’t a viable solution (never mind appropriate or fair). And if he did actually work with or near his previous targets, then this change in his behavior could be worth mentioning as well. It feels like he’s changed tactics to avoid having his “toy” taken away again.

    1. Tib*

      Which just further illustrates that this isn’t the bumblings of an inadvertent creep…this is a tactic of a predator.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Exactly!! He is getting off doing this and enjoys every bit of it. He can and will escalate until he’s fired. And then he’ll go do it at the next place

  23. blink14*

    OP#1 – Prior to going remote at work, I made it a point to get up from my desk every hour. I would take a short walk around the office, maybe get a drink, use the bathroom, or take a slightly longer walk around the interior hallway on the floor (2-3 minutes).

    I also started a medical treatment that requires really hydrating well a few days before and after, and I would be going to the bathroom pretty much every hour on those days. I didn’t share an office space, but my team is quite small, and occupied one corner of a larger suite. I was pretty up front with my boss (we have a good relationship), partially because when I first started the treatment, I had to take a couple of days off per month. I found that giving some information upfront was helpful to having peace of mind.

    1. Joan Rivers*

      You’re supposed to get up from a computer what, every 10-20 mins.? Per health experts.

  24. elle*

    LW5 – my mother hyphenated her last name when she married specifically so that she could continue to use only her maiden name professionally and it has worked with no issues for nearly 40 years. The only issue has been occasionally myself or my father get referred to by her maiden name because people make assumptions. I thought it worked so well for her, that I did exactly the same thing when I got married 6 years ago. I use my maiden name 95% even though legally I’m hyphenated with my husband’s last name.

    1. Jack Straw*

      I cannot love this enough. I may make myself up a little cross stitch pattern with it (seriously).

      1. HailRobonia*

        Thanks! I was inspired by the meme:

        “How is that racist?”
        -Traditional white person proverb

        Which, like the gaslighting one, is unfortunately way too true.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Don’t forget “irrational”, “emotional”, and “oversensitive.”

      (LPT: Even if you do think someone is any of the above, or behaving as such in a specific situation, *saying those words* at them is the opposite of helpful.)

  25. BlueBelle*

    One of the great things that came from the #metoo movement is we no longer accept “creeps” and “boys will be boys”. We have put up with it forever, and thankfully, now we don’t have to. Report him, and as Alison said, that your manager didn’t take it seriously or help you. That is unacceptable.
    One other thing, you aren’t “overly sensitive” you are an adult who is being made to feel uncomfortable by someone. Period.
    Good luck!

  26. Karo*

    #5, Part 4 – I also have my middle initial in my email address and after having stuff like home renovation contracts sent to the wrong address I’ve started stylizing mine with capital letters and a period after the initial to make it clearer (so, JanettaF.Forest@website) and it has helped. Gmail considers both of those emails to be the same, but double check with your email provider before you make the change.

  27. A New CV*

    If ever we needed proof that rape culture is the miasma we all exist in, it’s this letter that clearly lists obvious incidents of sexual harassment followed by the LW apologizing for noticing them. This is a reasonable and appropriate reaction to an actual event and don’t let anyone minimize that for their own convenience. We all deserve to be comfortable and safe.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you so much. You’re right, I think I’ve been a bit indoctrinated. I’m trying to remember that if another woman told me someone was treating her like that, I’d be so supportive and it wouldn’t cross my mind to think she was overreacting- and trying to internalise that!

  28. Daisy-dog*

    #5 – In the early 2010s, my friend did have a repeated letter email and it did cause a lot of issues for the organization that we were in together. I’m not sure if it affected any job opportunities because they could have copied it off his resume. The repeated letter was an “r”, so I think lots of people just didn’t see it because it did create a little optical illusion.

    1. Red 5*

      There was a story I read or podcast I listened to (I wish I could remember which one) where they intentionally tried to phish their coworkers to prove that even people who think they’re very internet savvy can be tricked. The way that they got through was to basically take a spot in the email address that was an m and make it an rr (I can’t remember the exact letters but that was the idea).

      I _think_ two F’s would not cause the same issue, but I also copy/paste a lot of things because I don’t trust myself not to miss letters.

      1. Aneurin*

        I think we’ve listened to the same podcast episode! I can’t remember which podcast, unfortunately, but I have a suspicion it might have been Radiolab or 99% Invisible?

      2. Janetta Forest*

        It was Reply All! They phished their boss by sending emails from “gimletrnedia” instead of “gimletmedia”. Also, thank you for the advice!!

  29. Anon this time*

    OP2: I’m in a similar boat as you with a creepy client right now, and fortunately the CEO of my company has my back. She told me: We as women are so often socialized to believe we are overreacting when we’re not, and it doesn’t matter whether he doesn’t mean to make you uncomfortable (even though he probably does): He is having that effect on you (and on others!), there is no earthly reason he NEEDS to make those comments, and therefore he needs to stop, regardless of intent.

    It felt so validating to hear this from the CEO that I actually cried. I’m sorry that your line manager doesn’t have your back and I hope that your HR department does.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      “We as women are so often socialized to believe we are overreacting when we’re not”

      This is so true. How many advice columns have letters from a woman that start with “my boyfriend is fantastic! He treats me well and we get along great and have a wonderful relationship. The other day I went into the refrigerator in his basement to get a drink and saw human heads in the freezer. Now I’m worried he’s a serial killer. Am I overreacting?”

      1. meyer lemon*

        Maybe he’s keeping the heads because I haven’t been emotionally nurturing enough? I just wish I could be enough for him so he didn’t need to bring additional heads into the relationship.

  30. cncx*

    re op2, while i am not usually a fan of HR or going to them, in these types of situations it is actually really helpful- sometimes with a prior case it was he said she said, and when it becomes two or three or ten cases of he said she said with the same creep, that is enough ammo for HR to actually do something, i’ve seen it happen twice in my career. a dozen little incidents that *may be in the eyes of some* not fireable or disciplinary on their own suddenly become so when they keep happening.
    you also see going to hr actually being useful with yellers who go off on people and have bad tempers. the first time someone does it there are always people who are like “yeah but the person they yelled at is so passive blah blah” or “they should have stood up for themselves” but when they are on the record as having yelled at everyone…it’s clearer.

  31. Aron*

    OP #2 – Report the coworker to HR. I would say to report your line manager, too, for not opening an investigation or going to HR with you. Look, I’m a person who balks at the idea of going above my manager’s head to HR; I’m very hierarchical, and I tend to trust my managers too much. It’s hard to go straight to HR and lay it all on the line. But I wish I’d done it in every harassment/abusive situation I’ve been in at work. (Not saying my managers haven’t been trustworthy…but they don’t have my knowledge, they didn’t experience the situation, they can’t read my mind, and, because of the abuse and trauma I’ve experienced and learned to hide as a child, I have a really hard time showing negative emotions. I can be ready to burst into tears and able to hold a jovial, Everything’s Great :D conversation until I’m in a “safe” place to feel what I’m feeling. I don’t know if any of this applies to you, but I’m putting it out there, in case it does.)

    This is what concerns me: “Anyone I’ve spoken to — friends and coworkers — about this hasn’t seem very perturbed. I do have a history of sexual trauma, so I am oversensitive.” Having a history of trauma does not mean that you are oversensitive (or irrational, or reading into things, etc). And, yes, it’s common for outsiders to downplay or not understand the severity of a situation. That’s VERY common. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” book. Another commenter recommended it here a few years ago. I work in a field where Bancroft’s takeaways should be obvious but I learned an embarrassing amount of information that I never knew, and he actually gets into the thought fallacy that abusers prey on, which is what I quoted from the letter. The fallacy is because you have an experience of trauma, your interpretation of the incident must be skewed, and you must accept someone else’s version of the events. It’s BS. In almost all other situations, having experience means you better understand a situation — that absolutely applies to trauma.

    Report. Report. Report. And take care of yourself. And please read that book…it’s a game changer for abuse in the workplace and recognizing the gaslighting/abuse/manipulation that occurs.

    1. mkennedy*

      This. OP2, you are not “oversensitive.” You are acutely aware of what this guy is doing.

  32. BlueWolf*

    For OP #1: I agree that it might be good to mention something to HR or your boss just for peace of mind, so it’s on the record as a health issue. My partner has IBS issues and would often need long or frequent bathroom breaks. Unfortunately, he worked for a pretty toxic small business, and his direct manager made comments basically saying he thought my partner was in the bathroom masturbating instead of, you know, using the bathroom for it’s intended purpose. Of course, this manager also made all sorts of other toxic comments and treated him pretty horribly, so unless your manager has shown those tendencies, you’re probably fine.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Someone who jumps to the conclusion that a person is jerking off in the bathroom before going to “maybe they have a medical condition” should be dropped on a desert island in the Pacific Ocean.

  33. Blarg*

    #4: A fun quirk of Gmail’s system is that periods in addresses are ignored, so you can use them, or not. I have a similar situation — middle & last initial are the same. So if you are using Gmail by chance, jenetta.f.forest@gmail is the same as jenettafforest@gmail, etc. You can also create alternate Gmail accounts that auto-forward to your ‘main’ account, another useful thing with a difficult to spell name — grab up the address with only one f also if you can.

  34. OyHiOh*

    RE LW 3 – I successfully job searched while living full time in a different state. I did not put my address on my resume, only phone number and email. This was during full pandemic precautions so I interviewed remote, and then moved back to the state when I got an offer. Ultimately, this is probably a ‘know your industry and area’ issue. Some industries and parts of the company don’t bat an eye at out of state addresses or phone numbers, others are very conservative about candidates who aren’t local.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think omitting it was smart. I don’t think I’d even notice if a candidate just didn’t put an address on their resume, but it would certainly stick out to me if they were out of state. I don’t think that it would be an automatic rejection but it would probably bias me on some level against them, even if it was unconscious.

      1. OyHiOh*

        I also think a physical address is far less necessary these days, given that most job search communication comes through email or phone.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          Every ATS requires a physical address to submit an application, and all but the tiniest companies have an ATS. Rationally, it should be irrelevant information, but in reality, you will be required to provide a physical address no matter what.

          And if you’re currently employed in a non-remote job, using a friend’s or relative’s address in your target city isn’t an option, since your job location and purported address would contradict each other – a huge red flag that will get your application automatically dismissed.

  35. IBS Flarer*

    LW1, I am in a similar situation as you. I have IBS and it frequently flares up during stressful situations. I’ve often had to make frequent and prolonged bathroom visits during the work day. Once, after I had been away for 30 minutes, one of my coworkers commented wondering where I was. She actually thought I had left for the day! I briefly told her that I was experiencing an IBS flare and left the rest up to her imagination. She pressed for details so I told her to Google it. My manager whose office I have to pass on the way to the restroom, has never commented once about my frequent trips. I get all my work done consistently and she knows it. I don’t think you have anything to worry about but speaking with HR might help. I haven’t only because I work in HR.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      She… pressed for details after hearing it was an IBS thing?

      Why tho. Seriously, what was she hoping to know?

      1. IBS Flarer*

        I know! It was ridiculous how unduly fascinated she was. But she’s always been on the intrusive side and this was just one other incident.
        I think she might have been wanting the gross details so that she could judge whether the 30 minutes was actually necessary. She’s also pestered me about my gluten allergy whenever someone brings treats that I can’t eat and have to refuse. It’s as though she finds it offensive somehow.

  36. Combinatorialist*

    LW1 — my husband has his email with the middle initial that is the same as the first letter of his last name. That we know of, it hasn’t been any issue and he still gets the emails we expect. So don’t worry about that at all!

  37. lost academic*

    LW5 – if you are using a Gmail address, you can add periods into the name without changing it and that will help visually separate the unexpected double letters. This doesn’t work for most other email clients, but does in this case. (example – lostacademic vs lost.academic)

    1. Red 5*

      This definitely helps with anything where you’re sending a resume or written documents.

      With my email address where I have a similar problem, saying it out loud takes eons and gets confusing when you’re adding the dots, but audibly saying Jane F Forest (and maybe stressing two Fs) will also help I think.

      My email address is kind of a mess because all of the good combinations were taken by the time I set it up, but adding dots just makes it incredibly clunky and cumbersome so I just roll with it as is. But there have been times where adding those dots in has really helped.

    2. Barb*

      Thank you, I never knew this!
      I have the exact same issue and I just tried it and it really does work!

  38. Red 5*

    LW 5 – I have a coworker who recently did this, I have no idea if she’s formally changed her name or not. But she used to be Linda Smith-Jones and then suddenly I was seeing paperwork and links cross my desk that just said Linda Smith.

    I just kind of frowned and at first I thought “somebody should let her know that people are dropping the hyphen” because my assumption was that somebody was messing up her last name, but then another coworker just casually said “oh, by the way, Linda is going by Linda Smith now, she said it’s less confusing.”

    And then everybody just moved on and it was all pretty much fine. I didn’t even need to know a reason, just what she preferred so I could make sure any public facing documents were the way she wanted. Which is just to say, you do want to let people know so that they don’t think that the other person is making a mistake and try to correct them. Some people with hyphenated last names get (rightly) very upset when someone drops part of the hyphen. So it’s good to make sure that people know this is what you would prefer.

  39. Van Wilder*

    #5 – if your email is through gmail, you can use “.”s anywhere in the email address and it will still get to you. So you could write it as Janetta.F.Forrest if you were worried about the middle F being missed.

  40. Tired of Covid-and People*

    #2: No, you are not overreacting, you are underreacting. Women have been fed this overreacting nonsense in order to gaslight us into accepting disrespectful and insulting behavior by those who do not see us as full human beings. I’m kinda assertive, so I would have reacted with a blank face and said stop it, that’s inappropriate, and never say such things to me again, followed by walking away. Unfortunately, women are socialized to be “nice” so our boundaries can be nonexistent. Every remark like this is a little assault and no way do you have to tolerate it. Good luck.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you! My usual response to fear is to freeze up, I won’t lie. I usually try to brush past any moments of fear – I think because I’m in the habit of trying to swiftly overcome moments of fear that aren’t direct threats.

      I tend to freeze and immediately make a joke if a man shouts near me, or something, because my instinct is to diffuse. That’s really why when I feel cornered by this guy, I rarely say anything very assertive.

      1. anonymous 5*

        I don’t know if this will be any comfort to you, but it’s abundantly clear to me that, with this guy, it wouldn’t matter how “assertive” you were. There is nothing that you can say, and no way to say it, that will change his mind; he’ll just move the goalposts. Nothing about you–not your words, not your actions, not your personality, not your mannerisms, not your physique, NOTHING–is the problem here: the creep is the problem. I hope you’ll consult a lawyer and pursue whatever the strongest course of action is. You deserve a good result, and I’m cheering you on and crossing fingers you’ll get it.

      2. Observer*

        Well, that’s not an unreasonable reaction – you have reason to fear him. And it this point, your emotions are not just a reaction to your past, but to what seems to be to be genuinely threatening behavior. He is telling you that he is stalking you – either he means that straight up or he is trying to scare you, which is not any better.

      3. penguin*

        And just to prepare you, because they try to gaslight you this way too, you will be asked ‘well did you ever TELL him that you were offended? You didn’t? Then how is he supposed to know. If you didn’t say anything then he didn’t realize it. We can’t issue a complaint unless you tell him to stop and he didn’t” and they will put it all on you to tell him to Stop. Don’t take that. He knows perfectly well you don’t want those kinds of comments, its a power play. He knows you won’t react so he does it just to get his giggles. It is not on you to react. I would suggest that you do not engage any discussion with him again, if he tries to talk to you just give the minimal reply . And if he says anything offensive, don’t say anything just whip out a pen and paper and write down what he said, the date and time. Make a point of looking at the clock as you take notes. If you can manage a shocked and appalled look on your face or an icy cold glare thats great but if not mandatory. Just go ice cold and start writing. Then go straight to HR with the latest obnoxious comment he made.

  41. Khatul Madame*

    Interesting timing on the cover letter plagiarism topic – next day after the letter about cover letters being required for the job application.
    I wonder if the letter writer from yesterday allows/checks for, ahem, non-original content in those cover letters that are clearly not personalized to the job…

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Non-original content may also be used by ghost writers and their clients don’t know the origin of the material. So, the plagiarism may have been unknowing.

  42. Z*

    For 5, my email address is the same way, and I’ve never had an issue that I know of. The only time I confirm is when I’m giving it over the phone.

  43. Stina Neitz*

    One detail not commented on is that creep is now or also making sexual comments to women outside of his department once his first victims were moved out. He may’ve moved beyond his domain hoping it would be ignored for the exact reason that he’s not the victims’ direct supervisor. Please make that clear to HR when communicating with them about his unacceptable behavior. It may be worth it to discreetly canvass women in other departments about their experience with him.

  44. Pobody's Nerfect*

    LW1, I’d definitely utilize the HR/ADA accommodations that are available to you. We had a team member who would spend up to half their 8-hour shift in the bathroom every day. They never said if it was health-related, and some other employees sometimes would say they could hear the person listening to/watching videos on their phone while in there, but the bathroom was also right next to our offices and it was impossible to not notice that they were in there for very long periods of time. It did cause questions and some resentment on the part of some other staff members, wondering why that employee got paid the same full-time salary they did but only had to work half the amount of time. If it is health-related, go through the provided channels to make sure you have the protections that are offered to those with covered disabilities.

  45. Hawthorne*

    OP5: I also have a hyphenated last name and only tend to use one. I always used Firstname Secondlastname and it was never an issue. When I started at my new job, they originally gave me an email with my full name in it because that’s what HR has from my SSN, but when I asked the first day to get it changed, IT did it without a second thought and all my documentation only uses half of my last name with a few exceptions (that don’t come up that often). HR very rarely uses my full name and almost no one at work uses my whole name. No one even batted an eyelash when I told them I preferred only using one half.

  46. deesse877*

    On the plagiarism issue: I’m a writing teacher, and the thing is, people learn to write by imitation. Just like all other language skills. Originality can really only come after significant mastery, and basically only those wh read for pleasure will arrive there painlessly. So it’s more likely than not that many who copy-paste from the internet are fully sincere in the belief that it’s ok. Others know it’s not, but also see “originality” as a weird gotcha game that powerful people play (because they’re not there yet, skills-wise). And some **genuinely cannot** recognize the repetitions and tonal shifts that are obvious to us, whether from low exposure to norms or using a second language or learning disability.

    Also, a lot of people ask significant others to write for them, and…not every relationship is super-solid!

    1. OyHiOh*

      I definitely wrote cover letters for my late husband, and maintained his resume too. For various reasons including a pretty significant case of dyslexia that did not get diagnosed until he was a young adult, and although he had a full college degree, he never had the same level of mastery and originality that I have. I absolutely did not plagiarize his cover letters off the internet, though! The process was basically that I’d ask some leading questions, get him talking about what he’d done, why he was interested in the job, etc, and turn his stream of consciousness into a couple coherent paragraphs.

    2. quill*

      I’m the family creative writer and I’ve been editing cover letters, resumes, newsletters, since I was a teen. Partially because I also occasionally act as my mom’s secretary in terms of typing (she finished school before that was a particularly relevant skill, went into a profession that didn’t need it until recent years…)

      But if it wasn’t for me there would be a lot of template usage because following the format for something that you write less than once a year is pretty hard for people… and I’m sure there are plenty of people who aren’t that versed in any writing field who don’t necessarily distinguish “template” from “copy and paste someone else’s wording and fill in correct job details,” much the same way as casually using google images has made us all pretty cavalier about knowing when or if it’s okay to use an image for purposes that might not just be personal use.

  47. Napster*

    OP2, I want to acknowledge the courage it takes to report someone, and to remind you that no matter the outcome, you’re doing the right thing.

    I was a young military officer in the mid-1990’s who experienced similar comments from a higher-ranking officer (who had also been my supervisor). He often prefaced his comments by saying “You’ll probably take me to Social Actions, but…” He made these comments in front of other people, without any shame. No one spoke up to defend me, male or female, military or civilian. It took all of my courage to report him to my supervisor, who merely took the two of us into a conference room where the offender professed ignorance of his words and their effects, and offered one of those “I’m sorry if you…” non-apologies.

    Regardless of that unsatisfying outcome (and how the matter still weighs on me 25 years later), I’m proud of myself for doing the right thing. I wish for a better outcome for you.

  48. cactus lady*

    #5 – If there’s another Janetta Forest whose email address is janettaforest@website, they may occasionally get emails meant for you and forward them on. I have an uncommon last name and was an early gmail adopter, so my email is my first initial and last name, and I get emails for EVERY other person with my first initial and last name in the world. Once I got HR onboarding materials from a company in Australia and I just emailed the company back and said “wrong email address”. There’s another guy who has the same first initial and last name, whose work domain is very similar to gmail, and I get things for him all the time. It was happening so frequently I googled him and emailed him about it. I still get things for him but we have a pretty good relationship now :) Even if someone mistypes your email, it will be okay.

  49. CL's are passé*

    I’m sorry but I think some employers are overly obsessed with cover letters. In my past 2-3 jobs, I haven’t submitted a cover letter and I often do not apply if the job requires one. It’s so old school! Unless you are applying for a role out of your industry, these should never be required. I also work in HR and have for the past 11 years. When I am hiring, I never look at the cover letter. people need to get over them!

    1. OyHiOh*

      My current job’s application process was a “resume and cover letter to this email address” affair. Last summer, I applied for several jobs of that sort, in two different states, although roughly the same area (office admin, in a variety of industries). One of the things that AAM community makes very clear is that modes and conventions vary wildly across regions and industries within the US, and even more so outside the contiguous 48.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Cover letters definitely have a place in jobs where composing documents similar to letters is a big part of the job, but the majority of the time it comes across akin to judging a chef by their shoe size.

    3. C (um, a different one...)*

      You say that cover letters are useful when trying to change industries, but then admit to never looking at them?

    4. Anon in Canada*

      The vast majority of cover letters add nothing to applications, which causes most hiring managers to not read them. But if they’re not going to get read, companies need to be clear in job postings that they aren’t asking for one. Some candidates will include important information in them, which gets missed because the cover letter was never read.

  50. Lecturer*

    2. Creeps rely on the person not saying anything. Next time just say to him ‘I don’t want to discuss anything not work related so stop that’. (don’t say please)! Practise in a mirror then practise with friends.

    If he does it one more time just cut him off, he is not your manager so just say ‘I do not want any contact with you so let’s keep any contact work related’.

  51. hmmm*

    OMG I worked with a woman who was like this – every.single.sentance she said (to men) was sexualized. She also dressed in a very sexualized way (including using baby talk when talking to some people on the phone). Of course the men loved it, or at least seemed to – and if any of us women said anything we were just jealous.

  52. Heffalump*

    #5: Former Arizona senator Jeff Flake’s Internet domain is jeffflake[dot]com–3 consecutive F’s, but perfectly logical in his case.

  53. Anon in Canada*

    LW #3, “use his address” is only possible if you’re not currently employed. If you have a current job in, say, Florida, how is it going to look if you list a Texas address? The prospective employer will find out right away that you lied about your address, and your application will be automatically dismissed.

    It baffles me that so many people don’t realize this problem, which apparently includes Alison. It sucks, but there’s simply nothing you can do to fudge your location if you’re currently employed in a non-remote job.

    As for not listing a location at all – again, if you’re employed, they’ll know where you are. And even if you’re not… the ATS will ask for it every single time.

    1. quill*

      With the rise of remote work though, it’s more possible to be “working remote” for a position that’s in a different state… something that LW would have to be, at least part of the time, to be employed and splitting their time between two locations.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        If the job is remote, you just put the word (remote) after the company’s location, and it informs the prospective employer that your address and job location don’t have to match. But if the job isn’t remote, what are you supposed to do?

        LW3 might be able to include “remote” if the job is indeed that, but if it isn’t, you’re stuck.

  54. mourning mammoths*

    #5 I have a similarly unique and extra long name that I use different mixes of in different situations, so I say this from experience: your name is unique enough that you have nothing to worry about. Your contacts when asked for references will know that they mean you. Any googles for your shorter name will bring up any hits with your longer name. I have email addresses in my shorter versions of my name and my longer versions, there has never ever been any confusion since they all are forwarded to the same inbox anyway.

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