my boyfriend left me for an intern, we under-estimated how long a nursing employee would need to pump, and more

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

1. My boyfriend left me for an intern at work and her manager called my friend about it

My live-in boyfriend of several years recently told me he has been having an affair for months and ended our relationship to pursue a relationship with the affair partner. He and I are both in our early 30s and met at work, where we are both still employed. The affair partner is an intern in our office, over 10 years his junior.

Since the break-up, I’ve been staying with a friend from work (“Diana”) and have been out of the office for the past week on a vacation I scheduled prior to the breakup.

Diana tells me that the intern’s manager called her while I’ve been away and tried to initiate a conversation with her about the situation, including the phrase “as [intern]’s manager I have a responsibility to ensure that she has a safe working environment.” Diana found the phone call confusing and was unclear why he contacted her and what he wanted from her. She explained that her involvement in the situation was extremely limited and ended the call.

I find the fact that he contacted Diana at all, and especially the presumed implication that I pose some kind of threat to the intern, wildly inappropriate and insulting. It feels creepy and unprofessional that he went sniffing around Diana instead of speaking to my manager or to me directly, and also excessive that he brought it up at all. Neither Diana nor I has had any contact with the intern, we work in a professional environment where interpersonal violence is not a concern … it’s just bizarre.

Is there something I’m missing here? Is he just doing his due diligence so he can tell HR that he spoke to someone close to me and it doesn’t sound like I’m planning to shank her in the break room? Is this clumsy and misguided but ultimately not that big a deal? I would really like to tell my manager what happened and ask that he make it clear to the intern’s manager that any concerns he has about the situation need to be directed to my manager or me, but I’m worried that I’m overreacting (I’m pretty traumatized and not responding to things as I normally would). If it matters, my manager has been super supportive about the break-up and I believe he would have my back on this.

What on earth. If he has concerns, he should be speaking with HR, not the temporary roommate of the person who was cheated on. And if he wants to ensure the intern has a safe working environment, his concern shouldn’t be you but your ex. (And even if your ex or the intern said something that made him think there was reason to be concerned about you, he should talk to HR, not call your roommate. He seems very officious and pot-stirry.)

To answer your question, I’d say it’s clumsy and misguided and kind of a big deal. He’s stirring up drama and pointing his lens at exactly the wrong person, and probably making an already bad situation worse. It’s worth letting your manager know what happened, saying you think it’s over-stepping, and ask him to shut down whatever this guy is doing.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. We under-estimated how long a breast-feeding employee would need for pumping time every day

We recently hired a nursing mother to our staff with the understanding that she would be taking time to pump three times a day for about a year. She is being paid for the time used to pump. She was provided a comfortable private space in which to do so and she logs the time as “general overhead” on her timesheets (unbillable) – it comes to about 90 minutes per day. We’re just now, a few months in, realizing how quickly this time adds up – in the last billing period (five weeks) it was nearly 40 hours! Is there a tactful, legal way to ask her to make up some of this time (50%?) so that we get more billable hours from her?

This is her second child, so we know she’s not new to this and is as efficient as possible. We have had one other nursing mother in the past but didn’t seem to have the same problem – I’m not sure why. (She had already been on staff for years before having her child, so it may be that we just didn’t notice.) My employer is pro-family, but having done the math this comes out to about 10 full work weeks per year in paid pumping time, time that we cannot bill to our clients.

Ooooh, I don’t think you can backtrack on this. When she took the job, it was with the understanding that you were giving her paid time to pump. If you turn around now and say, “Wait, we didn’t realize what we were offering, so we want you to work more hours to make up for it,” she’s rightly going to feel misled.

Unfortunately, the time to decide that you couldn’t do this was before you made the offer and she accepted it. At this point, I think you’ve got to consider it an (expensive) lesson learned for next time. (That lesson is not “don’t hire nursing employees,” which would be discriminatory and a terrible way to run a business. Rather, it’s to be sure you’ve thought through the pay or billable hours agreement ahead of time. Also be aware that federal law requires you to allow non-exempt employees at least unpaid time to pump, and some states require it for exempt workers as well.)

Also, I don’t have any personal experience with pumping, so I asked Twitter if this amount of time is unusually high or very normal … and the strong consensus was “very normal,” especially when you take into account set-up, clean-up, and storage.

3. Interviewers were obsessed with my commuting time

I recently had a second interview with a company and I wanted to get your take on something that came up in both interviews. The first interview was with my potential grandboss only, and towards the end she asked where in my state I lived, even though my address was on my resume. I told her and she became extremely concerned about the commute, asking very gravely if I’d be able to do that and if I’d be comfortable driving for that long. I told her it wouldn’t be a problem, that it would be comparable to my current commute, and not to worry. She seemed to accept that, and we moved on. (My current commute ranges from 40 minutes to two hours, going in the same direction as all the other traffic at rush hour. The new commute would be consistently an hour every day, against traffic.)

The second interview was with her and her boss, the head of the organization. Her boss asked most of the questions this time (and could honestly merit her own letter with all the red flags she threw up) and appeared satisfied with my answers. Then my potential grandboss asked a couple of questions and again became gravely concerned over the commute, saying, “I know you said last time that you’d be okay with the commute, but are you really okay with it?” I again said it wouldn’t be a problem, but she kept pressing it, acting shocked over the potential length of time I’d be driving and didn’t seem satisfied this time. In fact, she seemed more and more horrified the more answers I gave her.

I’m not taking the job if it’s offered because of all the red flags her boss threw up, but the focus on this sits strangely with me. What do you think?

It’s not uncommon for employers to be concerned if they think you’d have a very long commute; the worry is that you’’d quickly burn out on it and end up leaving for a closer job much sooner than you would have left otherwise. They don’t want to invest in training someone who might leave in a few months because they can’t deal with the drive … and some people do say they’ll be fine with a commute and then end up leaving over it. Interviewers who have had that happen are understandable reluctant to sign up for it again. That said, a one-hour commute really isn’t that long (in my area it would raise no eyebrows at all).

Regardless, they weren’t accomplishing anything by harping on it in the way they did. If it makes them too nervous, fine — but continually questioning you about it and expressing horror is overkill.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

4. Using your spouse as a reference

I know, get, and understand that you really, really shouldn’t use a spouse (or family member or close friend) as a reference. But what if you HAVE to?

I’ve been out of the workforce for about six years, and am planning on going back to work soon. I have had relevant volunteer work since then I can talk about, but not a lot of it. When I was working previously, my husband was my supervisor (and there was no boss above him). The only other person I worked closely with and could speak at all about my work has sadly died, so he’s really the only person I can use as a work reference! I worked with him for eight years, so the jobs before that are ancient news and at a much lower level.

So, what do you think would be the best way to go about disclosing it, and having it be as minimal a “strike” against me as possible? I will lean into my volunteer work as best I can and I know they’ll speak well about me, but still!l

Most employers won’t contact him once they realize he’s your husband, since they’ll assume there’s no way they’ll get an unbiased reference from him (and rightly so!). Still, you can leave that up to them. I’d say it this way: “I can connect you with my manager from X — but I want to tell you up-front that he’s my husband, so I certainly understand if he doesn’t make sense to speak with as a reference. I can offer you X, Y, and Z from my volunteer work though.”

5. Asking an interviewer about emergency duties

I work in local government, and it’s become extremely usual for employees across the organization to have duties during emergencies. Last year, it was a variety of duties, but it’s primarily been thought of as “in the event of a hurricane,” or something similar.

For most cases, each employee has a primary assignment when activated for an emergency, though there are no promises that when you’re activated that’s what you’ll be doing, it’s just what you got trained on ahead of time.. Needs of the community come first, and we all understand that.

So all that said, it’s become common for position descriptions in the field to contain phrasing about this, alerting applicants to the fact that they’ll be called upon to perform different duties in the event of an emergency activation. Would you think it’s a reasonable question to ask “What are some of the common emergency activation duties for someone in this role?”

Yes, it’s very reasonable to want to know what emergency duties you might be assigned, and that’s a good way to ask it!

Related: our library staff have all been reassigned to do childcare for county workers

Read an update to this letter here

{ 732 comments… read them below }

  1. BetsCounts*

    LW2, it might be useful to tease out how much time you were *expecting* her to take daily for pumping, and then instead of focusing on the ’90 minutes/day’, to think about the difference between what you had mentally allocated to pumping as ‘fostering a pro family environment’. It is an issue with a definite end date, and I agree with Allison that there is not a good way to bring it up now with her, but going forward you can and should specify what amount of time you are willing to have as non-billable for this issue.
    As part of her new hire paperwork did you prepare a billable hours goal? If so, the very **most** you could do is note that it may be difficult for her to hit her target- whatever that means at your firm. At my old firm, actual billable hours to budget was a small factor in the amount of the year end + mid year bonus you received, and that’s about it.
    As an additional data point I am former breastfeeding parent. I only pumped twice a day in the office but it took ~30 minutes each time, so 90 minutes sounds reasonable to me.

    1. Nona*

      If my manager made a comment about ‘not being able to meet my target’ in that situation I’d probably ask them directly what they meant and what the concerns were, but be pretty pissed off that they were making ‘hint hint’ comments about my pumping instead of a) honouring our agreement or b) telling me to my face.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I think there’s a way to say this directly, assuming that there is a specific billable hours target in place and “your target” isn’t being used as a euphemism for “our preferences.” It seems reasonable to ask “have you done the math to make sure you can hit your target”

      2. twocents*

        I think Bets is pointing out that either LW has an actual work issue (eg they aren’t going to meet their billable hours) or they don’t. And if they have an actual work issue, then the pumping is beside the point. If the employee spent an hour-and-a-half everyday on a long lunch, they would also be at risk of not meeting their billable hours. You can focus on “contractually, you’re expected to meet X billable hours and you’re currently on track for Y. How do you plan to rectify?”

        1. scooby dooby doo*

          but the point is she’s not taking a long lunch. it’s not an issue with her work if she doesn’t meet an hours target because she’s doing a necessary activity that’s protected by law.

          1. None*

            Not federally protected unless she’s a non-exempt employee, which is unlikely in the professions with billable hours.

            1. scooby dooby doo*

              i didn’t say it was federally protected? i meant that there are certain laws that govern pumping such as how they can’t make you do it in the bathroom, etc.

              1. J.B.*

                The pumping requirement, including not the bathroom was initially in the fair labor standards act, so that wouldn’t apply if exempt.

        2. BetsCounts*

          ah yes thanks ecnaseener + twocents, I didn’t mean to sound weaselly re: not hitting the target but it came out that way. yes to what both of you said.

        3. Amtelope*

          If she can’t meet her billable hours target because she has to pump for part of each day, which the company authorized, why should that be her problem? The company needs to adjust the target so that it’s possible to meet given the accommodations they offered her for breastfeeding. “Sure, you can pump during the day, and we’ll tell you that you don’t have to make up the time, but actually we’ll punish you if you don’t because you won’t hit a metric” is not being family friendly.

      3. quill*

        Yeah, changing your mind about how you want to handle a biological function after you’ve decided it takes too long, and then talking about it “interfering with metrics” is pretty shitty.

        The only way you could have handled this was to actually research ahead of time how long this takes on average, instead of just making an assumption about how it would affect your workflow based on zero data. Sorry OP, you made the bed, you gotta lie in it – but think of it as an investment into your employee loyalty, since it may be hard for her to find comparable hours anywhere else nearby.

    2. AGD*

      She may be going around telling a lot of friends and family how awesome your organization has been about accommodating her needs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll attract a few additional fantastic people this way and the issue will essentially pay for itself.

      1. Ooh La La*

        Yes. And if you want to retain this woman, consider it a short-term problem (even if she pumps for 90 minutes a day for the entire first year of the baby’s life, that’s probably only a few more months at this point) and a worthwhile investment in a good employee! This is also a valuable lesson that it requires compromise to actually *be* a “family-friendly” employer, rather than just paying lip service while putting enormous pressure on mothers to make sure their family status never impacts the workplace. Time to decide which way you want to come down in reality, not in theory.

        1. Yellow*

          Also, almost no one maintains their supply for the whole year of pumping, so the time spent is very likely to decrease, too. I nursed for a year, and started out pumping 3x/day at work, then eventually 2x/day and then down to just once at lunch for a few months.

    3. C*

      I also feel like 30 minutes per pump is so reasonable that I don’t know how a firm could come up with a lower number they’re comfortable with without it shouting discrimination against new moms, something law firms already struggle with! I was overall pretty appalled by this question

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

        I wasn’t expecting it to take 30 minutes never having experienced it myself (TIL!) – I can only assume they don’t have much experience with this in LW’s place either, having only had one previous employee where this was applicable. LW wasn’t sure why it wasn’t a problem with the other person; I suspect it did take a similar amount of time but either time was quietly made up, or time sheets were fudged slightly in some way so that the 90 minutes of overhead didn’t appear on there (e.g. was one of the pumping “slots” on her lunch break). So based on their prior (not much) experience the 90 minutes a day of unbillable time must have come as a surprise.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Or the previous person had a short enough commute that she only needed to pump twice during work instead of 3x.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I was close enough to my daycare that I could hop over there during lunch and feed him direct from the source (which is always faster than pumping), but when I was pumping 30 minutes was exactly the amount of time it took for one session. There are probably some people that can get some amount of paperwork done while pumping, but I really needed to be able to relax to get everything to happen right (which is not uncommon at all).

            1. 2 Cents*

              Same here. I tried working, but any kind of stress (even just answering personal emails) led to less supply, which meant more stress. I either had to watch videos of baby, look at his pictures or watch ridiculous comedy (Conan O’Brien will never know his contribution to my breastfeeding journey). All told, I stopped pumping around 16 months for my kid. He still BFs, but I no longer pump. 30 minutes each time sounds about right to me too.

            2. MissBaudelaire*

              I was just thinking in my nursing days… When I got to the lactation room, got set up, pumped, cleaned up, and got back… that was easily thirty minutes. And it could be more if I had missed a pumping sessions.

        2. anonymath*

          Different people are different, too. Some moms need to envision their kid & listen to relaxing music to get the milk to flow. On the other hand, I was happy to smash out some routine emails while pumping. Do I get to charge 15 minutes then to billable stuff if I’m smashing out those emails?

          This is a complex issue of biology and it’s not comparable to a long lunch (another commenter compared this to a 90-minute lunch every day). Not at all comparable. You can eat lunch in 15-30 min and not get ill. If you don’t pump, you will get mastitis and experience great pain. The fevers, chills, and other horrible complications that come with bad mastitis are not at all comparable to not having a 90-minute lunch.

          Last, as others comment later, this time commitment decreases significantly over the course of a year.

          1. Mountain Home Kid*

            Yes! I had friends who actively pumped for 10 minutes and were overflowing with milk. I pumped for 30 and got 2 ounces. Perhaps the first employee had an easier time pumping. I used my lunch, prep period (teacher), and after school to pump. It was not fun, except for the time I thought I had locked my door, but didn’t and an 8th grade boy walked in on me! He was clear across the room and it was clear he didn’t see anything or realize what was happening. I called his dad anyway and we had a good laugh.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              A member of the janitorial staff burst into the lactation room when I was there pumping. He hadn’t knocked, just shouted. I called back that I was in there. He came in anyway. Okay, well, the curtain is drawn, I don’t know what he’s going to do. He ripped the curtain open, saw me, screamed, raced out. He was wearing headphones.

              Why did you call you were coming in if you couldn’t hear my reply?

      2. Cat Lover*

        That seems ungenerous. I don’t have children (I am a woman) and I have no idea how long pumping takes. Yes, they probably could’ve done more research, but 90 minutes is a big chunk of a work day, so I could see how it wouldn’t have necessarily calculated correctly.

        But no, they shouldn’t ask her to make time up. As someone pointed out above, if there is a contracted amount of billable hours that need to be met, that’s really the only way to bring it up.

        1. Amy*

          I’ve pumped for 3 kids in the office and have had many colleagues who have breastfed. I’m not sure I would have assumed 90 minutes either, probably more like 60 at least after the first few months.

          1. Carter*

            For me, the actual pumping took about 15 minutes/session. But by the time I walked to the fridge, walked to the pumping room, got set up, pumped, stored the milk, and went to the bathroom, it would be about 30 minutes/session.

            1. Lauren*

              Yep, I had it down pat. 5 minutes to walk to the pumping room, 5 minutes to get situated in the room, pump for 15 minutes, 5 minutes to pack up and bio break before my next meeting.

        2. Emma*

          The thing is, they knew from the offset that it would be 90 minutes per day. That was agreed up front. They just didn’t do the maths and go “oh, that’s actually 7 1/2 hours a week, that’s more than we’re willing to offer”. It was a failure to think through the information they already had, not a lack of information.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I don’t see that in the letter? It says there was an understanding about 3x a day but no mention that they understood how long each would take.

            1. ian*

              Let’s split the difference and say that while they didn’t understand how long it would take, that was also information that they could have acquired if they had been thinking about it. By not asking or researching it beforehand and then coming to a specific agreement with the employee about how long they would give her, they were essentially giving her an agreement to take the time that she’s now taking.

              1. Lies, damn lies and...*

                Right. They made the offer they just didn’t calculate it out for 9 months. Thems the brakes.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Exactly this thank you! It sounds like they very specifically KNEW and expected there would be three breaks a day, and they are now upset that those three pumping breaks are averaging about *30 minutes* each?? This is so wildly unreasonable to want to back track on.

        What you need to stop doing is looking at how it “adds up.” Everything sounds like a big deal if you look at it over that much time, but are you going to try to take away your employee’s lunch breaks too? (Though given this question I guess I wouldn’t be that shocked if you already don’t give them one…)

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I feel like the question is fair and this POV of the view of the OP is a little OTT; the OP is trying to understand but isn’t writing in to say “We are no longer accommodating this employee, no matter what the advice says”

          It sounds to me like this might be a law, accounting, PR or other firm that bills by the hour for work product and they are trying to figure out what’s acceptable or not. The OP may see all of these comments and Alison’s advice and realize things vary wildly. I mean, it’s always possible that’s not going to happen, but I didn’t quite get that impression.

          I do agree that if it was part of the agreement it’s on the OP and the company to figure out in a way that works for everyone, not in a way that takes this benefit away from current employee or any future ones.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            a law, accounting, PR or other firm that bills by the hour for work product


            …and that by its nature, likely expects difficult, long hours from its employees. That also feeds into why the employee needs three “long” pump breaks in a day. She is away from her baby for a long time, which affects her supply, which means she has to do more gymnastics to get enough milk, which takes time, and on and on.

            Agree heartily with the poster upthread who said that this firm now needs to decide whether they are going to do what it takes to actually be family friendly, vs just saying they are but getting annoyed when asked to make any actual accommodations for families. Actually being family friendly might mean giving up a little bit of time to a nursing mother for a few months, and not punishing or penalizing her — or those who come after her — for it.

            1. Blackcat*

              “That also feeds into why the employee needs three “long” pump breaks in a day. ”
              Right. I generally got away with 2 pumping breaks per day but I worked ~6hr at the office and another few after the kid went to sleep.

        2. Anoni*

          How about we not beat up the OP who is asking in good faith and trying to navigate a situation they hadn’t expected to crop up?

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            But they *did* expect it. They explicitly agreed to it. And now they are rethinking it, and I highly disagree that is in “good faith.” It seems to me they wrote in hoping for some kind of blessing to get out of the arrangement now that they’ve realized what it actually means.

      4. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Makes me irritable.

        There are many factors – including set up and break down and actual pumping. I’m sure many people are not aware of all that goes into pumping at work. Many women don’t respond well to pumps, especially if they are stressed or not feeling well that day. There were times when I was fine with a shorter duration and times I was not. I even tried taking materials to review with me to maximize my time, but that ended up stressing me out and making things worse. Shortening or skipping pumping sessions may have other implications, like infection, lower output, leaking or pain. It’s a medical need not rando fun time. The length of time and number of sessions may decline as the baby gets older (breastmilk changes to meet baby’s needs and the introduction of solids may change the feeding schedule). OP needs to remember this is temporary.

        It also does not matter that this is her second kid or someone else’s life was different – pregnancies and babies are different. Maybe this woman’s needs or her baby’s needs are different. I also hope no one ever suggests formula to get more work hours from this lady – that’s a decision for a mother and only a mother to make.

        I had a boss at the time (a woman no less) who had a habit of going to find me and thought it was appropriate to knock on the door to hassle me about work, which was infuriating. I tried many things like using my pumping time as my lunch, or pumped in my car (or in client site restrooms – so gross). This was incredibly stressful. My boss’ lack of support post baby was just one of many reasons I eventually quit. I’m not saying give a working mom carte blanche, but supporting employees with their family work/life balance is a good way to retain people.

        IMO, the concern should be about work product and not the time she spends pumping. I guarantee there are other people in the building wasting time during the day/week who are not scrutinized like this. Does OP track everyone’s coffee breaks? Bathroom habits? Do smokers get to slide on their time because it’s not specified on the timesheet? Does someone else need accommodations for a medical concern? If no one else is being similarly scrutinized, then leave her alone. Also, her hours on site may be constrained to daycare hours so when would she make up this time, exactly?

        The company provided her with space to pump and a charge number to use. Be a company that really supports working mothers and don’t let your personal biases and bean counting undermine that support.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Ugh. That was a mess. What an entitled parent. Principal should have said no from the start.

            1. Heffalump*

              What struck me was the parent didn’t just suggest that the teacher buy formula; she told her to do it.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Seriously. Just because Sally George could pump in fifteen minutes doesn’t mean I can. Nothing to be done for it. And you are right, if this boss isn’t pulling out spreadsheets to figure out how long smoke breaks are, how long people are going pee, how many times someone is refilling their water bottle… they need to let it go.

          No one does that because it is ridiculous.

          I’m so sick of people claiming family friendly, when what they really mean is ‘we’ll begrudgingly allow you the bare minimum and then punish you for utilizing it.”

      5. AntsOnMyTable*

        Honestly I was surprised by the 30 minutes . I don’t have kids but I am a nurse so work with a lot of women and anytime I cover for someone while they go pump it is almost always about 15 minutes – maybe 20 at the most.

        1. German Girl*

          That could just be how your pumping room is set up. In hospitals you sometimes have high end pumps already set up so that you just have to plug your gear in, a sink for hand washing and cleanup of your gear and a refrigerator all in the same room. And if this place is also close to were you work, it might be possible to do it in 15-20 minutes.

          For me it was more like this: Bathroom break, cause I just couldn’t pump on a full bladder, then go down two flights of stairs to get to the kitchen, wash hands, get stuff out of the fridge, go up two flights of stairs to the room where I can pump, set up the pump and equipment, actually pump for ~15 minutes, disassemble everything, take it down two flights of stairs to the kitchen to put the milk in the freezer and rinse the equipment, then back to my office up two flights of stairs.

          I might have made it in 25 minutes sometimes but mostly I needed those 30 minutes.

          1. German Girl*

            Also, while hospital grade pumps provide better suction than the small inexpensive ones working moms usually buy (were talking 2000$ vs 100$ here) and may let you pump enough in 10 minutes instead of 15, you’d have to be among the lucky few whose breasts can handle that amount of suction to really get the advantage of a shorter pump time. I always had to dial down the suction and do 15 minutes, because my body couldn’t handle a higher setting, so the better pump wouldn’t have made a difference for me at all.

    4. Chidi-Janet & The Tarantula Squids*

      Not to mention, the number of pumps per day will quickly decrease, especially once the youngling is also eating solid foods. In a few months it will just be 2 per workday, and then down to just once a day while in the office.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, I came here to say this. LW doesn’t mention how old the nursling is, but I was only pumping once per workday by 12mo and eventually my child’s feeding patterns settled into “reverse cycling” where I didn’t pump at work at all but still nursed at home for months.

      2. MsClaw*

        Yes! That’s the big thing that jumped out at me, especially with their yearly projection. As baby ages and relies less on breastmilk for dietary needs, the amount of time pumping will decrease.

        If Employee has already been back for a few months, they’re probably ‘discovering’ this problem just as it’s about to become less of an issue.

        1. Momma Bear*

          This is one reason that short maternity leaves are a problem – you just get established nursing and need to go back to the office, and then people give you nonsense about needing to pump to maintain supply at a time when the baby is little and nursing the most.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I’m not defending it but I looked into the history awhile back and people that are 50-80 years old today predominantly formula fed so they don’t have a good baseline for what’s normal and/or why returning while still nursing can be challenging. I asked my mom once why I wasn’t breastfed and she essentially said “there was formula, why would I?” Formula was just the norm in that period of time and society started to look more towards convenience.

            1. Anoni*

              It was also presented as scientifically better for babies than breast milk. A lot of misinformation went into leading women away from breastfeeding. At this point in time, we (hopefully) understand the most important thing is a fed baby, no matter how it got that way.

            2. lizcase*

              My mother said she had my dad ‘smuggle’ me into her room to breastfeed (1970s) – this was the days of all the babies in a nursery room, formula and feeding schedules. The nurses felt once/4 hours was sufficient. Apparently I disagreed.

      3. Beka Cooper*

        Yes, I came here to make this comment too! I pumped 3x a day in the office at first, but that really only lasted for a little while. Also, are all three pumping times counted as work time, and not breaks? I’m sure my perspective is a little different as an hourly union employee, but I brought my lunch and pumped during my lunch break, and then I used my two 15 min breaks for the other two pump times, and just went over the 15 minutes as agreed to by my managers.

        Boy, was I glad to be done pumping though, and get my break times back to myself! It’s not like pumping is fun.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          Same. I expect to pump until baby was a year old, and I had the best possible work setup for pumping at the office — clean, comfortable room, reserved time to use it, a boss who DGAF about my schedule as long as I kept up with my sprint commitments. And I still haaaaaated pumping so much that after three months of 3x/day pumping I started tapering and after five months I was no longer pumping at work, and was combo-feeding the baby.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          Same. I expected to pump until baby was a year old, and I had the best possible work setup for pumping at the office — clean, comfortable room, reserved time to use it, a boss who DGAF about my schedule as long as I kept up with my sprint commitments. And I still haaaaaated pumping so much that after three months of 3x/day pumping I started tapering and after five months I was no longer pumping at work, and was combo-feeding the baby.

        3. Sasha*

          Same. I’m in the UK with much longer maternity leave, and went back at 11 months. I never needed to pump during the day, only ever on night shifts (and that was partly because my son was at nursery the following day so I could sleep, so if I hadn’t pumped I would potentially have gone a week without feeding him, which obviously would have affected my supply).

      4. BethDH*

        This is a really important point! The amount of time she needs will change significantly over that year. It may help OP reframe it mentally to realize it’s unlikely to be 90 minutes a day for a year.
        I don’t know whether it is relevant in this case since OP seems to be talking mostly about billable hours, but I also got a lot better at planning around it and was better able to minimize the impact on my coworkers.

    5. Emma Dilemma*

      Making loaded comments about her target – or setting a target she can’t meet – sounds dodgy to me.

      1. OhNo*

        I think it’s worth having a conversation about, but only if it’s actually a conversation and not a series of veiled hints for her to pump less. The LW could point out that they haven’t had too many nursing mothers in the past, and the firm didn’t take that into account when setting billable hours, and see whether the employee would prefer to keep the current metrics and make up time, or set new metrics with an expiration date.

        The employee deserves to know that the higher-ups at her company have noticed this and have feelings about it, so she can make an informed decision about how to handle it. That might put some pressure on her to make up time, yes, but at least she won’t be blindsided when she’s denied partner five years down the line because everyone was silently judging her while she was pumping.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yes, thank you! Emma Dilemma isn’t the only person to have assumed that the suggestion was to make “loaded” or “veiled” comments – theres absolutely no reason that needs to be the case. You can have a straightforward conversation about this.

        2. ian*

          …I don’t see how you can say “hey the higher-ups at the company have noticed how much time you’re taking and have feelings about it” without that being a veiled hint to pump less. Unless you’re following up with “and so I’ll talk to them about the agreement we made so they understand what’s going on here”, that’s always going to come off as “your bosses don’t think you should be doing this thing”.

          1. Yorick*

            Well, I think she deserves to know that the partners aren’t ok with it so she can decide to pump less or decide to find a new job or whatever.

            1. ian*

              Sure, it’d be great for her to know that she’s going to be discriminated against for being a nursing parent, but I don’t know how you do that in a way that isn’t obvious that your company is a pack of ghouls.

              1. OhNo*

                Hiding the fact that your company is a pack of ghouls isn’t the point. Why would you want to hide that? This employee deserves to have all of the information to make an informed decision about her continued employment there.

              2. Anoni*

                Nobody is being a pack of ghouls. Y’all are so dramatic. The OP wrote in, Alison gave good advice, and now the OP can decide what is actually the issue. Is it that they need to adjust billable expectations? The only correct answer is yes. But before we all decide the company is going to discriminate and be awful, let’s instead assume the OP asked in good faith and is going to take all the great advice and information they’re getting here, put their mind and the minds of their bosses at ease, and leave their employee alone about the pumping.

            2. Amtelope*

              … or push back on being discriminated against, that would also be a decision. Women should never have to choose between being unable to breastfeed and being unable to keep their jobs, that is not remotely okay.

          2. OhNo*

            The truth is, there’s no way to say this that won’t be read as a hint for her to change her behavior. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what the LW and the company want! If the company seriously wanted to be family-friendly, we’d be having a different conversation about how they can adjust their policies to support nursing mothers. But that’s not what the LW wrote in to ask – they asked whether they can renege on their previous agreement because they didn’t realize what a pain it would be!

            If that’s the state of the company, then the only fair thing is to let this employee know that. Will it pressure her to pump less? As I said in my original comment, yes. It will. But the alternative is that she doesn’t even know the company is mad about it, and suffers employment setbacks for no discernible reason. If she’s going to get dinged for pumping, at least let her know that’s what is happening. That way she can decide whether to keep pumping on the current schedule and take the hit, make adjustments because she really wants to stay at the firm, or start the process of finding a new job.

            1. Amtelope*

              I mean, what you’re proposing isn’t fair, at all. The only fair thing is to adjust the policies, support the employee nursing, and not discriminate against her. Giving her warning that you’re going to discriminate against her so that she can choose whether to comply with discriminatory policies or lose her job isn’t actually an okay option for the LW.

        3. Michelle Smith*

          I think doing any of this, from having a conversation about it to denying her future opportunities to advancement, all fall under the same category of decidedly NOT pro-family. I think this employer needs to dramatically rethink what that means and get the hell over it. It took them a few months to even notice it and I see nothing in the letter that suggests she isn’t getting the work done they need done, just that they can’t bill as much for it. So what? Are they pro-family and about supporting parents to do what they need to do to support their kids or are they just about saying they are pro-family so that they look good to clients?

          1. BetsCounts*

            “It took them a few months to even notice it and I see nothing in the letter that suggests she isn’t getting the work done they need done, just that they can’t bill as much for it. ” this is an EXCELLENT point Michelle. There were no complaints about timeliness or projects not being completed in the letter, just that she is not as billable as the company would like. That puts me even more in the ‘suck it up’ camp.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              That is a great point. The work is all getting done, the company just can’t make quite as much money from it as they’d like.

              That doesn’t strike me as the employee’s problem. It sounds like they’re salty they feel like they’re paying her pump and not have her butt in the seat working.

          2. 'Tis Me*

            Does telling an employee “BTW if you continue to engage in legally protected, gendered activity in the way we agreed upfront, it will be a big mark against you” count as telling them they will be sexually discriminated against and create potential legal hot water?

        4. Observer*

          The employee deserves to know that the higher-ups at her company have noticed this and have feelings about it, so she can make an informed decision about how to handle it. That might put some pressure on her to make up time, yes, but at least she won’t be blindsided when she’s denied partner five years down the line because everyone was silently judging her while she was pumping.

          The employee deserves to know that her employer’s talk about “family friendly” is a veneer only and that they are not terribly good at honoring their commitments.

          To be blunt having a conversation like this WILL put pressure on the employee. That’s the POINT of the conversation. In some ways it’s worse that just coming out and saying “we messed up and can only pay you X minutes a day, rather than the 90 we effectively promised you.” At least that’s honest and the employee knows EXACTLY where she stands. What you are suggesting is for the employer to put the burden on her – make it HER problem. Because what it boils down to is “Either you make up your hours or we will punish you. But we are all going to pretend that you are not being punished, and if you toe the line we are going to INSIST that you did this totally voluntarily.”

          1. OhNo*

            If I honestly thought the company would be open to changing its policies to be truly family-friendly, my answer would have been different. But if that was the case, the question the LW asked would have been different, too.
            The employee deserves to know that her employer’s talk about “family friendly” is a veneer only and that they are not terribly good at honoring their commitments.
            That is exactly my point. A conversation should happen because this employee deserves to know that the company is full of s**t. Will it put pressure on her in the short term? Absolutely. But better for her to make an informed choice based on the actual situation, then to go on thinking that the company is great while the higher-ups quietly judge her for using the perks they offered.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              I don’t think they should talk to the employee at all. They fucked up. What they can take away from this is, if they want to have a paid pumping policy moving forward, they need to spell it out. So it’s not just this one agreement with this one employee. It’ll apply to all future employees. They shouldn’t backtrack with her because they realize they fucked up. They just need to figure out what they thought the time would’ve been and make that the policy moving forward.
              So if what they thought they were agreeing to was something along the lines of “three 15-minute paid pumping breaks per day for up to one year after the birth of a child”, then the policy could be “three 15-minute paid pumping breaks per day for up to one year after the birth of a child; additional pumping time is permitted but unpaid”. Or whatever more appropriate way to phrase that, but the point is they’re not limiting the pumping time, they’re limiting the paid portion of the pumping time.

            2. Observer*

              I think we are in agreement.

              OP – please think very carefully about what is being said here.

              If you really care about being family friendly and about simple integrity, then you need to back off and deal with this.

            3. StinkBug*

              Completely agreed. We can spend all day talking about the way the world should work, and we absolutely should keep trying to make it better, but we also have to be realistic about how it actually does work currently. It’s better for the pumping parent to make an informed decision than to be operating on incomplete information.

              And I say this as someone pregnant with her second child who works in HR and is using her position to push for better parental leave and related policies, but who is also realistic about the gaps between what should be and what actually is in the workplace, and how long it takes to close those gaps.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Or it could be helpful?

        If the employee can schedule her day where she can do all the pumping she needs to, but doesn’t necessarily do it on the company dime, that might be helpful. Maybe just moving one of the pumping sessions to her lunch hour might go a long way in helping quell her employers anxiety about her billable hours.

        Of course, this all depends on her work day length, time allowed for lunch, and her commute. I also wonder about her exempt or non-exempt status. I assume she’s non-exempt.

      3. Observer*

        Making loaded comments about her target – or setting a target she can’t meet – sounds dodgy to me.

        It *IS* totally dodgy. Her billable hours need to be set for something that is reasonable given her working hours. If she has to “make up her hours” to meet those targets, then the employer IS totally rescinding her PAID pumping time.

    6. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “didn’t seem to have the same problem – I’m not sure why.”

      This sentence annoyed. Yes, the time to pump is a problem from the point of view of work, but it’s natural. And why? Why 90 minutes? Because humans vary. Because you’re trying to be a family friendly place. That’s a good thing.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        It is also possible the previous nursing mother did work a little bit longer each day to make up billable hours lost to pumping. She had already been on staff for years before having her child, so it may be that we just didn’t notice. Also she may very well have had the corporate knowledge to understand how low her billable hours could drop before anyone got upset and realized she’s have to make up half of it or something similar and just did it on her own.

        If you’re an employee who tracks billable hours, you’re not very likely to be hourly and is probably exempt from overtime rules. IDK for sure but if you’re an employee who has to track billable hours you’re probably conscious if your billable hours are low/dropping because of non-billable duties and you may make changes to your tasks. This nursing mother is a new hire and it would be kind to talk to her about the politics about what’s going on, but your company did agree to allow her to burse 3x a day and pay her for it.

        Additionally as someone else mentioned, this is a limited term problem. She will nurse less and then will stop within a year or two.

        1. AVP*

          Yes to this! I have a weekly billable hours target with a mix of internal and external clients, and I’m also nursing/pumping right now. I have a really strong sense of what I can “get away with” re: hours dropping and what would raise eyebrows, and that’s only honed after being here for years before I had the baby. I also know what to prioritize if my hours do need to drop, but again, learned with time. I’m guessing thats what happened with the earlier employee.

          I also WFH so its much easier to get it done faster – no set-up/breakdown/travel time, but 90 mins a day seems totally reasonable if you need to do those, and you truly can’t just stop early or skip a session if you’re busy.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            It sounds like this new mother made a point to negotiate what she needed because this matters to her, and she knows that it would be quietly (or not so quietly) frowned upon in some companies, she doesn’t have that sort of knowledge about their inner workings, etc.

            She was as up-front about this as she could have been!

          2. CowWhisperer*

            The thing I found exasperating about the letter is that the company seems to have no idea that pumping takes more than a few minutes.

            My son was a NICU kid so I was a full-time pumper. I was also a FTM so I honestly had no experience breastfeeding. Pumping was really easy for me because I had no other experience with milk letdown in response to baby stimulus and quickly picked up a letdown reaction to the smell of dish soap and the plastic of my flanges. I could also tolerate a fairly high suction rate on the pump and produced fairly small amounts of milk. The whole process took me 20 minutes per pump rather than 30.

            The company is worried about 37.5 hours of lost time per 5 weeks. I would have used 33.332 hours per period. Did the company run some basic math simulations prior to making this agreement at all?

      2. Cubicle_queen*

        I’ve been looking for where I can chime in and just say “Arrrrrrrrggghhhhhh!!” over this whole letter. Bottom line is the employer did 0 research or conversations with their employee before agreeing to pay for her pumping breaks. Being pro-family means *learning what an employee with a family needs* or doing research on it and discussing options with the employee.

        I have 2 babies and pumped starting at about 6 weeks for both of them. Never could I do the 10-15 minutes that I read other moms could do. It always took me a full half hour to get an acceptable amount. I didn’t get flak from my work because they *are* pro-family, and my boss heavily subscribed to the mantra that he really didn’t care about hours as long as work was being turned in AND that if I was struggling to turn in work then I needed to come to him and find ways to delegate or descope.

        I agree with other comments, too, that say the first mom wasn’t really paid attention to because 1) she was fudging timesheets, 2) had earned a reputation in the company that didn’t need close scrutiny (i.e., “she’s a good employee, end of story”), 3) she was a shorter pumper or had different circumstances that didn’t require as much time, or 4) it wasn’t LW’s jurisdiction so they didn’t notice.

    7. Luna Lovegood*

      I can see how someone who has never pumped might underestimate how long it takes, but 30 minutes each time sounds very reasonable and average to me. I struggled with low supply, especially when I went back to work, so I had to pump 30-45 minutes, which doesn’t include time for setup, clean up, walking to/from the room, and occasionally waiting for the room to be free. One thing to keep in mind if you aim to be a family friendly employer is that it’s probably a lot for your employee too, and she may also be stressing that she’s missing so many billable hours (and stress can have a major impact on supply, which can lead to even more pumping). It could be helpful to ask her (or have hr ask her) if there is anything else that would make this process easier for her (a mini fridge in the pumping room or near her desk, a convenient place to wash pump parts, a reminder to non-pumping folks that the room is off-limits when booked, a room schedule if others are able to use it, etc.). There may be small things she’s reluctant to ask for that could speed up the process. I’d only ask if you can avoid hinting that you want her to speed things up though, because she may be operating at max efficiency already. If you expect her to be there for at least a few years and do excellent work, it is worth supporting her on this.
      If you want to be truly family friendly, I’d also consider what else you may be underestimating or overlooking for working parents beyond pumping needs. Employers with the best intentions often have policies and practices that make it really hard for parents (especially mothers) to thrive. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know!

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I had a low supply too – and pumping was so deeply stressful for me. It was the constant mental labor of thinking of how long you have until you have to pump again, and if you miss that pumping then your supply could drop. It was like a section of my brain was just constantly a countdown clock to pumping/feeding time for a full year. If anyone ever implied I was taking too long I probably would have have been somewhat irrationally upset about it.

        1. Manchmal*

          My god I do not miss that period of my life. Nursing/pumping was so stressful for me, I had supply issues constantly, second one never latched properly. In and out of breast feeding consultants, always trying different supplements. Ugghhh. Best days of my life (2 kids) were when I gave it up and switched to formula.

          1. Emily*

            I had low supply with the pump too. I had a really supportive workplace, and pumping at work was still SO STRESSFUL for me. If possible, LW should look at this at a short-term cost that’s an investment in retaining good employees. (And also look at other areas of their operations that could be made more friendly to parents/caregivers/people with lives outside of work.)

      2. anonymath*

        This is a really good comment. If it’s not already set up this way, a mini-fridge in the pumping room for instance would save time walking back & forth to put things in the fridge, decrease stress, etc. There may be a bit of optimization that can be done. I had to walk to a different building to pump, in general, which certainly took time, especially in winter.

    8. Irish girl*

      I pumped for 2 different kids 3x a ay for almost a year with each at work. Even when my kids started solids, I never cut down on the number of pumps as my kids both still nursed the same amount of times a day on the weekends. Please don’t just assume all women pump less as the kids get older. Women with low supply might be fighting for every drop an need that 3rd pump.
      My company did not pay workers for their pumping time but allowed you to use your breaks or make up time but that was clear in the nursing mothers policy. Sounds like L2’s company didnt have a lear policy or made an exception to that here.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        Yeah I’m confused about the number of people saying the need to pump will decrease with age – until the baby is 1 year old the amount of milk (either breastmilk or formula) stays pretty stagnant. If the pumps are decreasing it should be because the pumper is making more milk per session (not super usual once supply regulates) or they’re supplementing with formula (which many parents need to do and which is fine but is sort of separate from the pumping conversation.) I’m not willing to let my kid fully reverse cycle and be up all night and I promise that my employer would be far better served letting me continue my 3x a day pumping schedule than be routinely fatigued from unnecessary overnight wake ups to eat.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          That stood out to me too, and I think it points to an issue that women have – an issue that I see big time in these comments: Everyone has an opinion about how to do mothering right, and everyone feels completely entitled to give a mother orders and tell her she is wrong.

          People judging whether or not this woman’s pumping schedule is “normal”? Declaring what is going to happen with her supply as her kid ages? Everyone should kindly ^&*% the heck off with that. You know what opinion people should have about this lady’s nursing schedule? None. Because we don’t get to have one.

          1. nuqotw*

            30 minutes per pump is very very reasonable.

            As folks have noted above with respect to other things: it really depends on the woman and the baby. Thing 1 loved to nurse but once solids were in the picture Thing 1 was delighted to eat more of those and nurse less so I didn’t pump as much and in fact pumping became less effective over time; I stopped pumping around 11 months. Thing 2 on the other hand loved to nurse and saw no reason to decrease nursing once solids were in the picture; rather, Thing 2 just upped total food consumption. I was still pumping once a day at 18 months. I would have been irate if someone had told me I had to stop/reduce pumping for Thing 2 on the basis of when I stopped for Thing 1.

        2. BethDH*

          It is pretty normal for supply to increase per session as the baby grows. Yes, once supply regulates it’s not a extreme change total, but babies usually do gradually drink more at a time, but less frequently, over the first year, and it is very common for parents to adjust the pumping cycle to match.
          The work situation should not be the reason for this, of course, and the OP shouldn’t be surprised if the employee continues to need 3x a day for the year, but they also shouldn’t be counting on the specificity of the numbers in their letter being accurate either. I know my earlier comment about frequency being likely to decrease was a response to OP making very detailed projections about total number of hours. OP should not replace under planning before with over planning now.

        3. Yorick*

          Pumping will definitely decrease as the child ages, although it may not be as fast as some commenters think. Eventually the child will no longer be breastfed, and some mothers stop earlier than others.

      2. Observer*

        Please don’t just assume all women pump less as the kids get older

        I agree. This is not what the OP needs to hear. What they need to hear is that what is happening is well within normal rage – but this stuff is a RANGE. And they need to deal with it, as there is no way they can walk this back while maintaining any shred of credibility with this employee – and other employees will take note as well.

        My company did not pay workers for their pumping time but allowed you to use your breaks or make up time but that was clear in the nursing mothers policy.

        This is common, and would have resolved the OP’s issue, at least in part, had they just been clear at the outset.

        To be honest, as long as the mother has a chance to make up her hours and DOES NOT GET PENALIZED regardless of whether she makes up the time or not, this is a reasonable policy. On the one hand it makes the cost to the employer much more manageable, while still protecting the mother. I get that it means less income, but for a significant proportion of the population, the lower income is not biggest problem – the HUGE problem is the risk of losing their job, with the second major issue being the long term consequences like being denied opportunities.

      3. Vintage dairy*

        Wow, this makes me realize the dark-ages situation I had to deal with when my daughter was born 37 years ago. No readily available electric pumps out there, so imagine a manual pump (think bicycle horn). And you didn’t even consider asking for accommodations like a private place to pump, because that just didn’t exist. So that equals sitting on a toilet seat in a bathroom stall in a multi stall restroom, and basically just pumping to keep up supply (so pump and dump, because no place to store). It’s a wonder I was ever able to successfully bf.

    9. allathian*

      Yeah, 30 minutes per session doesn’t sound at all unreasonable. That said, unless she’s really worried about not having enough milk for her baby to the point that she can’t focus on anything else while pumping, I think the employer might ask if she’d be willing to, say, review documents for a client’s case while she pumps. I don’t think that would be out of line, and it’s not as if she has her baby to bond with and focus on while she’s at work. Obviously that’s not an option for prep and cleanup, but while she’s actually pumping it might be.

      1. yala*

        Shoot, maybe even just watch some professional development videos?

        Like, honestly, it could just be A Thing That Doesn’t Quite Matter, but will at least make The Company feel better about a person taking 90 minutes a day for a natural function. Sort of just a convenient fiction everyone accepts.

        But there’s still no one-size fits all, because everyone in this position is going to be different, and not everyone would even be able to watch videos.

        I can’t even imagine the stress of trying to pump at work. Or…well. Anything involving babies.

      2. Jasper*

        *If* she is capable of doing so at all, and see other comments here: not at all a given, those fifteen-twenty minutes at a time would have to be billed out to the customers at full rate. While she is at best distracted. If I were one of her clients I would probably not want to be billed at full price for that time.

        Remember that the problem isn’t that work isn’t getting done, it is solely the billable hours.

      3. Atalanta0jess*

        Hard disagree. They agreed to give her this pumping time. They didn’t say “if you can work while you pump” and they should not request that she do so. Asking for that is very nearly the same as going back on their offer.

    10. Amandalikeshummus*

      I’m expecting my first kid soon, and I just have to say, this whole thread was very useful. Even if the lesson is, expect anything, it’s really nice to just learn about some of the possible experiences.

      I especially didn’t know that pumping might require thinking about Baby or generally relaxing. Knowing that will really help me not be hard on myself in the event that I can’t do other things while pumping.

      Thanks a bunch, Commenters!

      1. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

        Pumping for both my babies required me bringing an outfit of theirs that I could smell to start the letdown — otherwise, it took forever to start! That and looking at a picture of the baby helped. :) Congratulations and good luck!!

  2. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1 If the manager comes back to you: “The affair is between my ex and the intern. This does not involve me. Aside from professional courtesy, I have no interest in this matter.”

    1. Artemesia*

      I would consider going to HR with a complaint about this manager and his very inappropriate behavior. If he had come to the LW with his concerns it would have been inappropriate but less so. But to go with the temporary roommate/colleague was outrageous. If you have any confidence in the integrity of HR, a formal complaint might be in order.

      1. John Smith*

        I’d agree. This manager sounds exactly like my manager, especially the “officious and pot stirry” bit. He should only be acting if he’s given cause to act and even then, not act the way he did.

        I think the response by LifeBeforeCorona is very apt. May be worth telling your manager what happened and give that response to your manager. I wouldn’t wait for the other manager to raise it again.

      2. Redd*

        I think there’s something extra abhorrent in that he went behind LW’s back to ask how they’re coping with the fallout of a romantic partner and coworker going behind their back.

        1. Former Child*

          Yeah, this intern sounds like she must be really something to have these guys acting this way.
          Mgr. deserves to be reported. I get a vibe of “secondhand lust” if not “daddy/grampa protectiveness.”

          1. Former Child*

            Also, an intern and staffer having an affair, even if he’s not cheating on another staffer, is so wrong!

            I got upset when a staffer told our volunteer that I had an interview. She was almost like staff but still, you have to keep a dignified stance w/interns and volunteers. A dignified distance. Friendly and supportive but not more.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        Yes, this totally.

        It may be – and having worked in HR and *seen some things* – that the intern or her ex has gone whinging to her manager because now OP1 will be MEAN / not like them/ give her or himside-eye / their colleagues think she’s done something morally questionable and it’s NOT FAIR etcetera. It’s no longer a sexy fun secret, so some drama is required.

        But this is not OP1’s problem and the manager should have spoken directly to her.

        FWIW I think OP1 sounds impressively levelheaded about what must have been a sickening betrayal and continuing sadness, being confronted with your ex fairly regularly. Kudos to her for just not getting involved with stupid drama, because that’s what this is. One day you will look back and have unending gratitude for having dodged the bullet that is a partner who would do that to you, but that day may not come for a while.

        1. Admiral Thrown Rocks the Blue*

          Sounds like those two are already plotting against OP. They want her out now. Nice people.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I am also impressed with OP’s level headed friend who shut down the conversation with the manager and then let OP know about it. Stupid drama is right, with the now ex-bf in the starring role. I so agree, bullet dodged here, OP.

            1. Former Child*

              That’s exactly who you want to have take you in when you go through a shocking breakup like this, someone w/her head screwed on right!

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            Impressive level headedness. If it were me I probably would have been so shocked and confused at being dragged into whatever-this-is in the first place that my petty side would have leapt out before I could stop it. “If you’re worried about her safety, why are you talking to ME instead of [boyfriend]? I don’t have any control over his behavior. Only he does.”

            (Also assuming there will be violence when there’s absolutely zero indication of such is quite a leap that I cannot get my head around.)

        3. EPLawyer*

          Oh its definintely we have to be careful of the crazy ex girlfriend, not do something about the BF who is treating our company as his personal dating site. He dated an intern. Yet no one seems concerned about the power imbalance there. It’s all about protecting the poor little intern from being shanked in the break room by the crazy ex. Because you know, wimmins be cray-cray.

          1. Greg*

            And while we don’t know the back story of the original couple…they also work together so it’s safe to speculate that they, too, met at work.

            Sounds like HR needs to have that conversation with this individual, not LW.

            1. quill*

              My money is on XBF having been the one doing any complaining / drama stirring that got the manager involved. Second bet is on the rest of the office that knows intern or XBF side eyeing the age gap like it’s a ticking time bomb and the new couple dealing with either guilt or social disapproval by casting the blame for it back on LW.

              LW, you say you’re in your “early 30’s” and the intern is “more than 10 years younger” so while I would not assume that the intern has NO idea what’s going on professionally or is necessarily bringing the drama like you’re all in college still, I would definitely assume that XBF is going to be a much more persistent source of misinformation than intern. Your friend seems like a rockstar though!

          2. Uranus Wars*

            Yeah, I thought the safety concerns were going to be about the power imbalance…not the drama of the breakup. Not that Diane should have been involved at all…it’s up to HR and the intern’s manager and exBF’s manager (if not the same as the interns manager) to discuss this and in a business-focused way. This is not watercooler gossip. This is gross.

        4. Artemesia*

          The focus on ‘protecting the intern’ is also misplaced in the specific (there should of course be a firm policy about socializing with interns). But these were adults who violated professional standards by undertaking a relationship in the workplace. This is not a high school student but an adult who ought to know better. The husband should probably be fired over this — given that it was an intern. What should not happen is the wife of the unprofessional affair partner being harassed without cause.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        My feeling reading the description was that this was what he came up with to address the relationship across power lines.
        a) “I need to get Keith to back off of Young Eleanor.”
        b) “Obviously the key is to get Keith’s girlfriend LW to rein him in.”
        c) “LW is on vacation? And the home line to Keith’s house is moot since she moved out? Huh. Well, she’s staying with Darlene from Accounts, I guess I’ll call Darlene and intimate that we need to protect the interns’ working environment.”
        d) Which she will understand to mean “Darlene, I need you to make LW make Keith back off Young Eleanor and keep it in his pants at work.”

        To which the advice is still to escalate this, because the problem is not on LW and Darlene for having ovaries.

      5. Momma Bear*

        I’d talk to someone in HR about it because if LW and the ex and the intern are all still employed by the same company and someone is already going around implying that LW will be a problem…that is a problem.

      6. Lauren19*

        In my experience the people who supervise interns are junior themselves and this is often their first management experience. If this is the case I’d use it as a teaching opportunity around how to handle these things. If HR knew he was taking this route and didn’t deter, well that’s another thing.

    2. Emma Dilemma*

      Has no one considered that the intern may have stirred the pot / said things about the LW?

      1. Kay*

        I had similar thoughts. Sounds like the intern decided to create her own narrative while LW was away, maybe in a panic to get ahead of the story or to gain sympathy points somehow. Odd that it seems to have worked, though! The intern and ex-boyfriend sound about as unsympathetic as they come.

      2. Ginge*

        I thought that too. It does feel as though the intern has maybe suggested to her manager to contact LW’s roommate, being the closest contact to ‘feel out’ the situation. A very bad judgement call on his part.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is where HE should have written to Alison before making any phone calls.

      3. Myrin*

        I mean, it’s totally possible, but ultimately I don’t see how that changes the advice or the situation.
        If intern is a pot-stirrer regarding OP, OP will find out soon enough, but until that happens, she doesn’t need to feel paranoid about intern’s involvement which might not even exist.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yeah, that’s a dangerous road to go down because it’s unlikely to help and possibly could hurt.

          The intern isn’t in charge, she isn’t the one who made the phone call — it comes down to the manager’s actions and that’s where the focus should be.

          1. quill*

            Yeah. Regardless of what the intern said or did not say, the buck should have stopped with the manager. And it did not.

      4. Alternative Person*

        Same. LW probably needs to speak to HR and her manager, do some CYA like taking screenshots of any relevant conversations between her and the ex, maybe do some gossip limitation, and maybe get some work friends to help present a united front if rumours are going around.

      5. LifeBeforeCorona*

        That’s very possible. The facts remain the ex and the intern engaged in the affair, likely on company time and perhaps co-workers were aware of it. Now that they are partnered up, stirring the pot is a very bad idea. The LW remains professional and while everyone loves workplace drama after time people want to get back to work and don’t want to get pulled into it. It takes a lot of nerve to engage in an affair and then complain of mistreatment from the wronged party. AAM had a good letter a while back from a manager who had to manage a friend who was having a workplace affair and the response was golden.

      6. Not So NewReader*

        Anything is possible.
        But I don’t see a tie-in here. The known aspects of this story stand well on their own as reportable. OP does not need to keep adding more logs to the fire to build a case. OP is on solid ground as is.

      7. ecnaseener*

        It’s totally possible she stirred the pot intentionally – or it’s possible she said nothing and the manager is just jumping to wild conclusions – or, middle ground, the intern might have said something totally reasonable like “I feel uncomfortable around LW now” or “LW must be so angry” and the manager jumped to wild conclusions about uncomfortable = unsafe.

      8. Run mad; don't faint*

        My take was that the intern may be honestly (though unrealistically) concerned that OP might cause problems for them at work and went to their manager about it. Why the manager called the friend is less clear. Maybe they thought they could get an unofficial assessment to reassure the intern without making it official with other managers or HR. But if that’s the case, it’s going to misfire on them badly because OP now really should go to HR to protect themselves and everything will become very official and subject to scrutiny.

        1. Temperance*

          Intern destroyed her own credibility here. There SHOULD be professional consequences for what she did.

          That said, OP’s ex should be terminated for having an affair with an intern. That’s a gross power imbalance.

          1. MsClaw*

            If Ex isn’t in a position of authority over Intern the company likely has no standing to terminate him for having a relationship with her, any more than they could for his previous relationship with a colleague of more similar age. Generally speaking, relationship between adults aren’t policed like that unless there’s a reporting chain involved. And in many cases the resolution would be for the company to move one or both of them to a position in the org chart where they aren’t reporting to each other.

            1. Forrest*

              Where I live, more and more larger organisations have “notify your manager/HR if you’re embarking on a sexual relationship with another staff member”. I haven’t quite decided where I fall on this– I can see arguments that it’s way too intrusive, but I also think it’s pretty good way for an organisation to spot repeat offenders and head of this kind of incredibly disruptive (and potentially predatory) behaviour.

              1. Susana*

                “Repeat offenders?” What does that even mean?
                Look, people meet at work. In journalism, almost all of us ended up dating one or more people in the office at one point – your hours are so long and unpredictable this are the only people who have time to see you. Dating another adult is not “predatory.”
                Obviously, if there’s a chain-of-command situation, that has to come into play with HR – a manager should not be romantically involved with someone reporting to her or him.
                As for the intern, yeah, she’s young, but also an adult. If she were my friend, I would advise her that she’s making terrible decision, since people will – rightly or wrongly – see her as using her sexuality to advance. And that’s unfair, but it’s the reality, so the relationship *really* better be worth it.
                But two adults, who do not report to each other, deciding to date? None of management’s biz.

                1. Forrest*

                  yeah, I can see that argument too! When you’ve got a situation like this where a man has a long-term relationship with a colleague AND then decides to treat on her with a much younger colleague, though, I think that’s wildly disruptive and frankly disrespectful of other people’s time. There could end up being professional consequences for both women, plus whatever management time is spent rearranging projects to deal with the fallout. It just seems a lot easier to ask people to look elsewhere for their sexual needs!

            2. Temperance*

              You can actually terminate someone for basically any, or no, reason.

              That said, she’s an intern. He’s a full-time employee.

              1. MsClaw*

                Technically yes, most jobs you can fire anyone for anything. But most places do not want to go to the time, trouble, and expense of firing someone for something they do not consider a fireable offense.

                1. The Original K.*

                  Also if the intern’s time at the company is temporary and has a finite end date, they may reason that the situation will resolve itself when she leaves.

              2. NerdyKris*

                Terminating the lower level intern for having a relationship with a higher level employee (and keeping the higher level employee) sounds like a fantastic way to get a sexual harassment complaint.

                1. PT*

                  If the internship involves going through the student’s university (she’s getting course credit, she found it posted on their career portal) it could blow up into a WAY bigger problem, too. Universities have stricter regulations on those things than employers do, and they have the bureaucratic structure in place to enforce them.

                2. The Starsong Princess*

                  With the intern, unless she’s done something else, the best plan is to just let her run out her time and don’t offer her a job at the end. If I were the company, I’d be looking at opportunities to get rid of the ex – he’s a liability. As a former boss said once, sometimes you have to pay to get of these liabilities but it’s always cheaper in the end. LW needs to be sad and dignified, very careful not to show her rage, and marshal her allies to get her story out.

              3. Anoni*

                Then that means she has less power in this situation, which means she has a lower standard of behavior to meet. A full-time employee has more power and is the one who needs addressed more seriously. The intern could definitely use a conversation about professionalism, but you might want to check why you’re coming down so hard on the intern and not the BF.

              4. The Rafters*

                Yes but she may actually have a sexual harassment case against the company b/c of her relationship with the BF whether or not it was “consensual.” There is a power dynamic whether or not he’s in her chain of command. He still may have a say in whether or not she gets permanently hired. If the company is that worried about the intern’s safety, they should be looking at BF’s behavior and probably fire him, not the ExGF or Intern instead of chasing the ExGF around.

            3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              Some places have firm policies against any coworkers dating. Some just have no direct reports kind or policies. But overall kiddos the lesson is this….Never pee in the company pool. It’s not worth it to date someone you work with. Heck I know a company that fired 5 or 6 people because they were friends on facebook and hung out together. (not in a dating capacity) Some of the people fired were trainers (not full supervisors but with some authority) and the others were entry level employees but not directly being trained by the rest of the firees. Apparently there was a strict no fraternizing outside of work except with your own rank policy that they hadn’t read in the employee manuel.

              1. Susana*

                Probably because they don’t want them to unionize or compare salaries.

                Management has zero business policing employees’ personal lives, unless those employees bring it into the office, or one reports to the other.

            4. Ginger Baker*

              Depends on the company. My firm has a very clear “absolutely no dating the summer associates” [essentially intern lawyers] policy that applies to everyone.

            5. Observer*

              If Ex isn’t in a position of authority over Intern the company likely has no standing to terminate him for having a relationship with her, any more than they could for his previous relationship with a colleague of more similar age

              Nope. The company has standing to fire for any and all reasons that are not related to specific protected categories. And they are not firing because he’s a guy and she’s a gal. They are firing because of the power imbalance.

              And the reality is that the difference in age and position DOES matter. Pretending that it doesn’t does no one any favors. The reality is that there is always a sense of authority from long-time staff over interns. If you look at the archives here as one sample, you’ll see lots of situations where people manage to impose on interns far more than on other staff because the interns don’t feel like they can say no.

          2. Run mad; don't faint*

            Hmm. I’d say the intern’s manager is the one who lessened their credibility here. They’re the one in the position to handle this, with experience and knowledge of how to, and they went about it the wrong way.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              Agree. The intern might end up with egg on her face but TO ME the ex is the one who is at fault here; and has less credibility and plays a much bigger role.

              I mean, part of being an intern is not quite knowing professional norms yet – I am not giving them an all clear but my side-eye here is at the ex, not the intern. Besides, we don’t know if the pot stirrer is the intern, the ex, or a nosy manager.

          3. Wisteria*

            There SHOULD be professional consequences for what she did.

            The only thing we know she did is have a relationship with a senior peer who is partnered. That is not a professional violation. Lots of people have relationships with partnered people–that is a personal issue, not a professional issue. She was dating up, power-wise, not down, so again, there is no professional code of conduct that she violated.

            The only person who should suffer professional consequences is the person having a relationship with an intern–and that should be because he has a position of power over her, not because he is already in a relationship with someone else.

            1. Anoni*

              Yep. What exactly did she do? Be a woman intern who had a relationship with someone with more power than her? Weird.

      9. No Name Today*

        Just to even things up, intern may well be stirring things up (and this may not be jerk boss making things up in his own warped mind,) because of what ex-boyfriend said about OP. Why was he so willing to cheat? It couldn’t be a character flaw in HIM. It had to be some heinous flaw in OP.

        Full disclosure: I am 100% supporting theory that boss is a pot stirring prick who wanted to hear the dirt himself.

        1. Observer*

          Just to even things up, intern may well be stirring things up (and this may not be jerk boss making things up in his own warped mind,) because of what ex-boyfriend said about OP.

          That doesn’t change the fact that the manager was wildly inappropriate. There are reasonable ways to handle a complaint from an intern (or any staff, for that matter) and NOT reasonable ways. The manager chose a most definitely NOT reasonable way.

      10. Dust Bunny*

        But the manager took the bait instead of shutting her down, so he’s still at least co-guilty.

      11. Observer*

        Has no one considered that the intern may have stirred the pot / said things about the LW?

        What difference does it make? The manager was still WILDLY out of line. Even if they had really solid reason to suspect the OP’s behavior, talking to the room-mate is just ridiculous.

      12. Artemesia*

        This seems very likely. The intern and the husband probably should both be dismissed.

        1. Susana*

          Not a husband – it was a boyfriend. And no one’s business.
          Honestly the unkind gossip both the 30-something man and the young intern are likely to endure will be enough to make each one re-think that sort of drama. But they are both adults, and the private lives are private. I do wonder, though, who alerted intern manager to the absurd “threat” to intern. Sounds more like a preemptive strike to protect intern and man from being cast as the evil ones at the water cooler.

      13. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Even if she did, her manager should go to HR and direct intern there as well, not call OP’s roommate. I mean, the roommate is not even OP’s manager. So, whether intern is pot stirry or not, this guy is also a pot stirrer.

  3. Megan*

    While 90 mins a day is a lot, it won’t necessarily be that long for as long as pumping is required. Babies nurse less frequently as they get older and start also having solid food so you may find that the 90 mins (which I’d hazard a guess is 3×30 min sessions in a 10 hour day) becomes 60 mins, and then 30 mins as her baby gets old and less reliant on breastmilk.
    If your contracts don’t specify minimum billable hours, maybe they should in future to avoid anything similar arising.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Yes! I’m currently pumping and the time it takes has gone down a ton, both for the reasons you say and also because I’m just better at it now.

      1. Storie*

        Feeling defensive on behalf of the nursing employee! Just think about it this way if it helps: if we were in Sweden, you would have had to give her the YEAR OFF. That is all.

        1. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

          To be fair to LW they hired her after she’d had the baby, so I’m not sure they would have had to give her any time off at all.

          1. Max*

            They would. Parental leave cannot be bargained away and you can use the days as you wish until the child is 4, and 90 days of leave can be saved until the child is 8. Furthermore even if she was hired full time she has the right to only work 80% until the child is 13 I believe (though with an equal pay cut).

              1. Kristina*

                Sweden. There is 480 days of parental leave, with pay, and as employer you cannot refuse anyone that leave.

            1. allathian*

              Similar system in Finland, although it’s more flexible in Sweden. For us, the limit is until the child is 3, and we have paid partial parental leave for the care of a sick child until they’re 10.

              But at any rate, I’m so glad I never had to pump at work…

            2. Jasper*

              I find it extremely hard to believe that many companies in Sweden will hire someone *during* their year of maternity leave.

              1. generic_username*

                I think the government pays the benefit not the company, so I doubt someone on maternity leave would job hunt in the first place (or if they did, it would be on the understanding that they’re starting part time or after a certain date)

            3. generic_username*

              Wow….. The US really is soooooooooo behind other countries. I only get a month paid time and have been hoarding sick time so I can afford to take a bit longer. I also can’t really consider leaving my job I’m currently at because I want to have a child in the next year and am not guaranteed even unpaid time off if I start a new job now (FMLA only applies after a year on the job). I don’t understand why we have accepted this when other countries moved forward……..

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            She just wouldn’t have been hired in Sweden! She’d be sitting breastfeeding blissfully without a financial care in the world!

            1. Kristina*

              That’s actually not how it works here at all. Pay for parental leave is based on your pre-leave income, and while you still get paid if you had no income before, it isn’t a lot. However, it is blatantly illegal to discriminate in hiring due to the candidate having children, so mostly people are employed – 80% of mothers of young children are working, and a lot of the remaining20% are studying, since higher education is free.

        2. JR*

          Well, yes, the year off, but I assume the company is not responsible for keeping her on payroll during that year? They’re free to use that money to hire someone else, while the nursing mom is being paid by the government?

          1. Kristina*

            Yes; parental leave is paid by the government, and the company will hire someone else: it’s a standard way for new people to get experience – replacement for parental leave hire is useful because it tends to last at least six months (parents often share parental leave, taking half each). You can learn a lot and be an attractive candidate for the next opening. The parent’s salry must, however, keep up with everyone else’s, so when they return you have to give them roughly the same raise asthe rest of the employees. Not doing so is discrimination.

      2. Allie*

        I will say there’s a chance she might have to pump a little more at 9 ish months. I had a supply dip and had to do some extra pumping to keep up with my kid. I actually ended up switching to just nursing after a bout of mastitis (in building daycare) and I actually think it took less time,

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Yup. While some pumps have gotten better, they’re rarely as good as a baby at getting milk. Especially the ones that insurance covers.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, pumping times and frequency does vary. The supply dip can come at any time, if the baby is sick or teething and not nursing as much.
          Mothers who have their own office can get a bustier with enough support that they don’t need to hold their breasts or the pump, and simply carry on working as they pump. They’ll often fill up the bottle in a matter of minutes.
          Others might be stressed out and find themselves needing to pump three times and then again on the other breast while baby is feeding at home.

          1. LizM*

            Just a note, not every woman can work and pump at the same time, even with the correct equipment. I had a really hard time letting down and releasing milk if I wasn’t relaxed. I had to look at videos of my son, and once I started pumping, could read, watch videos, or scroll social media, but if I tried to work, I’d tense up and dry up.

      3. lost academic*

        And my time has not, with either child, so OP needs to NOT make that assumption. The production amount has gone down, which means the frequency and duration cannot because there’s a pumping deficit.

    2. Jess*

      This was my thought too – I took parental leave for a year with my first baby, but by the time I went back to work, solids made up a decent part of her diet and I was only feeding her morning and evening. I would expect the time needed to pump would start to go down from about the six-months mark.

      1. Ellie*

        Well, my kids weren’t big drinkers, so I used to mix the milk I’d pumped into their cereal so that I knew it wouldn’t be wasted. It could go on for quite a while.

        There really isn’t a standard length of time that you pump for, it can vary from day to day for the same person. So its understandable that you didn’t realise, but she may not have either. Is she doing a good job? If she’s a great worker, then I’d just consider this an investment in the future. If she’s a bad worker, or only s0-so, then I’d address that and leave the rest alone.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Transit time is REAL.
      Does this woman have a door to her office that she can close and lock while pumping, and a small cooler to store her stuff in? Or is she in a cubicle warren like I was? Is there anything else delaying her like an occupied room?
      Getting there and getting back was the one most unpredictable part for me. The first-aid was on a busy hallway, and I always seemed to get snagged for “long as you’re free” questions even when I replied that I’m going to an appointment. Led to some very awkward conversations at the first-aid room door.
      Worse was getting there and finding the room occupied by someone doing inventory. Still worse was being in the inside private room, and someone on the first aid team came into the main room with a man who needed, you know, first aid. 20 minutes extra right there because the sink & fridge were in the main area.

      1. None*

        Yes, the “transit time” adds up! I had my kid in 2020 so I was working from home, and even with being able to just grab my stuff from my own fridge 30 feet away, the set up took probably 5 minutes.

      2. Fabulous*

        1000% to transit time! In my office with my first in 2019 thankfully everything was pretty close, but then they started doing construction on the mother’s room and they offered me a locked utility closet in our other suite. I would have had to walk across a parking lot and up/down three flights of stairs 3x a day, resulting in adding an extra 20+ minutes to my already 30-minute pumps – would have taken almost 4 hours out of my day instead of just over 90 minutes. No thanks! I worked from home during that period, LOL!

    4. Pinkie Pie*

      I had an oversupply with my first child and needed to pump more often because of it. If I didn’t, I would have to change shirts. I was lucky, I had a fridge in my office and was able to pump at my desk and continue to work. Is that an option for the letter writer?

  4. RG*

    With regard to #2, I’d be curious to know – is her performance based on hitting a certain number of billable hours per year? And if so, is she currently at risk for not hitting that target? If both of these are true, then that seems like it would be a different conversation, purely based on her meeting the expectations of the job. The pumping aspect would only be relevant in terms of trying to determine ways for her to make up hours that accommodate the time needed to pump.

    If her performance isn’t based on hitting a certain number of billable hours, or it is but she’s on target to meet her goal, then I’m afraid you’ll just have to swallow this pill as Alison says above.

    1. I thought it was a weird question*

      I had also noticed that there just wasn’t any talk about her performance as an employee here. OP talked a lot about time the employee is logging here for nursing, but nothing about her work. Is she not able to meet her job duties because of this time? Is she missing deadlines? …or is her work fine, and OP just doesn’t like what her billed hours look like? If her work isn’t the problem, then OP has no problem–sounds to me like OP has instead an excellent employee who’s balancing other tasks her co-workers aren’t and still getting her work done….in fewer hours a week than they are.

      1. Ferret*

        Well I’m thinking it might be something like a lawyer job where billable hours in and of themselves earn the company money.

      2. Jasper*

        If you’re getting the same amount of things done in 30 billable hours as others in 40, then you’re not doing a good job. The billable hours are literally your product. They’re what you sell. And the rate at which they’re billed is fixed, so it’s not like you can just charge 33% extra and get the same bill.

    2. Boundaries*

      I don’t know about this ‘minimum billable hours’ angle.

      It still feels like promising something and then backtracking. Just in a more underhanded way.

      1. lost academic*

        It’s pretty normal. Billable hours companies often like to talk about all the accommodations they will give and flexibility but the end of the story is always “as long as you meet your goals” which are billable hours. Sure, they’ll allow you to work from home a little or take some additional sick time or come in late from medical appointments because at the end of the day you’re still held to a weekly/monthly/annual hour number. It’s an inherent dishonesty in the structure of the company.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          It’s an inherent dishonesty in the structure of the company.

          Could you expound on the dishonesty? That sounds more accommodating than the typical butt-in-seat fetish.

          1. Observer*

            Simple – those targets don’t take into account the sick time, etc. So, if you need to take a day off, you STILL have to meet the same target as though you hadn’t taken a day off. So, you wind up having to work the time regardless.

          2. COBOL Dinosaur*

            To me it seems on par with companies that tout ‘UNLIMITED VACATION TIME!!!’ as a benefit but then never approve the time off.

            1. generic_username*

              Yep! My BIL has a company like that. Unlimited vacation, ultimate flexibility, and a billing minimum that equals out to 40 hours a week for 51 weeks of the year (so for every day or hour off, you have to make it up after the equivalent of 5 days off).

      2. ecnaseener*

        It entirely depends on if she knew/agreed to the minimum billable hours when she was hired.

  5. Andrea McDuck*

    LW2, I hope you’re also tallying the amount of unbillable time your staff spend in the bathroom, at the water cooler, and chatting in the hallway.

    Gotta maximize those billable hours!

    1. L6orac6*

      #2 Add to this, going out for a smoke and picking up a coffee, or the person who has a 10 minute nap at their desk after lunch. These breaks all add up.

    2. John Smith*

      Indeed! My manager makes reference to being “100% of use”, meaning working all the time, ignoring our departments brief to make sure we take time out for chats with colleagues, leg stretching etc but says nothing to Ashley who spends half his day vaping strawberries in the toilet cubicle. Anyway…

      I have absolutely no knowledge on breast pumping, but if your manager keeps moaning, can you read something even remotely work related while pumping or “reflect on work performance”? I’d like to see them argue with you doing that.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yup, I work with someone who regularly pumped at work and she would work on her case notes or minor stuff. Didn’t even really realize until I had to call her for something and could barely here the machine.

    3. EPLawyer*

      Yeah I am shocked at the “we would pay her for the time spent pumping.” If she is hourly okay maaaaaaybe, but if she is salaried, why wouldn’t you?

      You want to be seen as a family friendly company? Don’t nickel and dime pumping mothers. If it hits the budget, it hits the budget. Being seen as family friendly will pay off in the long run. Or you aren’t really as family friendly as you think you are if this is only the second time its come up in years.

      1. Cat Lover*

        It’s not a legal requirement to pay for pumping breaks- a lot of companies do not. This kind of financial hit is why (which I disagree with- pay mothers!)

        1. EPLawyer*

          But if you are salaried what is the difference? I am just baffled by this. To me, OF COURSE, you get your regular salary, its a reasonable accomodation to a temporary situation. A guy breaks his leg and so it takes him longer to get back and forth from the lunchroom or in from the parking lot. Are you going to dock his pay for that?

          1. Cat Lover*

            Do we have indication that this employee is salaried? We also don’t know that industry this is. We also don’t know what we agreed to- was there a minimum billable hour threshold, and is the employee still meeting this?

            I agree that pump breaks should be paid! But I also acknowledge that 90 minutes a day is a lot!

            Does it take 90 minutes to hobble from a parking lot? If so, short term disability is always an option (my friend did that- she tore her ACL and had to get surgery, and took 10 week disability).

        2. Leah K*

          How would it work legally for someone who is exempt and has to be paid for the full week of work time if they worked any part of it? Let’s say your employer makes you take PTO for pumping breaks. But usually a new mother will have burned through all of her vacation time while on maternity leave (since FMLA is unpaid). Then what?

        3. Klio*

          If you want to be pro-family, you shouldn’t stick to the legally required minimum. Because what would be not pro-family then? Not even doing the legally required minimum?

          1. Cat Lover*

            I don’t disagree with you! I think companies should pay for pumping breaks.

            I’m just pointing out that it is not necessarily the norm.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I mean, presumably the nursing mother is still doing all that in addition to pumping. She’s still gotta pee, you know?

      OP has no problem with the fact that some time is being used for non-billable stuff. That’s exactly what she was ok with at the beginning and signed up for. She’s surprised and kinda dismayed at the LENGTH of time being used.

      1. ian*

        But that’s kinda on OP, isn’t it? After all, OP could have done what Allison did, and do some quick research on “average time it takes to pump”. Unless the mother lied about how long it would take, I’d say this falls on OP for not having done that due diligence before agreeing to this.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        But how?? They knew it would be 3 breaks total, and no matter what the activity is 90 minutes sounds like such a reasonable amount of time for 3 breaks of time. Were they expecting it to take 5 minutes each time she pumped or something? I don’t understand what they could possibly have been expecting that an average of 30 minutes to pump is wildly outside of their expectations.

        1. straws*

          This is where I got stuck too. Based on the way the question was asked, I’m thinking they just didn’t… realize how much it would add up to:
          “it comes to about 90 minutes per day. We’re just now, a few months in, realizing how quickly this time adds up – in the last billing period (five weeks) it was nearly 40 hours”
          The question doesn’t seem concern with the 90 min/day. It sounds like they were aware of that from day 1 and didn’t give it any thought. It wasn’t until the billing period ended and it added up to 40 hours that they got upset because… math? I guess?

          1. generic_username*

            Yeah, I’m seeing it as sticker-shock. Kind of like when I go to the grocery store and grab a bunch of moderately expensive things and my jaw drops when it says $100 at the check out lane. They knew it would take a while, but they didn’t think about how long in aggregate. I think their big mistake was tracking it using a special billing code, lol. Otherwise they’d probably be blissfully unaware how many hours a billing period it is in total

      3. nothing rhymes with purple*

        Is it reasonable to be dismayed by the length of time, though? How long did OP estimate it would take, based on what evidence, and how much can OP’s employee even control how long it takes to pump?

    5. Nanani*

      Every body is different, both the nursing person and the child. You don’t get to cry foul because someone has a stomach issue making them spend more time in the bathroom, and you don’t get to cry foul because someone is nursing.

      Put your money where your mouth is and actually make your work environment tolerable.

    6. Lizy*

      EXACTLY. Assume everyone has 15-minute breaks that are charged as unbillable time. That’s 10 WHOLE HOURS a month. Perhaps OP should consider cutting down on those.

      Also, did the OP write this in during their work day? UNBILLABLE HOURS.

      (I’m just a little cynical today…)

  6. AnotherSarah*

    I put this on the Twitter thread but I thought it was interesting so I’m adding it here, too, re: pumping. A Dutch woman I know informed a group I’m in that in the Netherlands, you can spend up to 25% of your paid work time on pumping and/or nursing, until baby is 9 months old. (After that, it’s your own time though the employer has to facilitate.)

    1. German Girl*

      Yeah, and German moms get 1 hour per full workday paid pumping time until baby’s first birthday. I did two sessions, 30 minutes each. In the beginning that wasn’t quite enough so my husband had to supplement with formula near the end of the day, but we all were satisfied with how it worked out.

    2. DutchEngineer*

      (speaking as a different Dutch woman)

      Indeed! I even got a promotion that year! (I had been working on earning it for a lot longer, but I think it illustrates nicely that the pumping wasn’t held against me.)

  7. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    LW3, the fact that your current commute is comparable or worse makes their laser focus on the commute even stranger.

    I totally agree with all of AAM’s points about why a potential employer would be concerned about a long commute, but they apply a lot less when you’re already experiencing that type of a commute.

    1. WS*

      I’m guessing that they recently lost one or more employees for commuting reasons (especially if other similar businesses offer work from home) hence the laser focus.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I was sort of this employee and I feel somewhat bad about ruining it for others. I started a job with a commute of an hour and 15 minutes, and one of my senior peers asked me about it during the interview. I actually moved closer to reduce that commute to 40 minutes, and it really wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. But after just a year, a better opportunity fell into my lap at a Fortune 500 company that, by sheer coincidence, was only 5 miles from my new apartment. So I accepted that job.

        But at the old job, during small talk conversations, I sometimes did imply that the commute was the reason. I didn’t want to tell others that I was leaving because the company culture is a dumpster smolder (not nearly as bad as some dumpster fires I had worked at before), doesn’t have enough opportunity for long-term career development, and frankly can’t pay enough to be competitive with the place I was going. I really didn’t want to insult the place that all my coworkers were still working at, so the commute was an easy, neutral reason to give. I hope that most people realized that the opportunity was just too good to pass up, but since I had moved to a new apartment a few months before giving my notice I’m sure some people thought I was scheming this all along.

        1. JRR*

          Same thing happened to me.

          I had a 50 minute commute. I left that job for new job that was closer, paid more, and had a better job title.

          But my old boss focused on the commute as *the* reason, probably because it was the one thing beyond his control. So that’s the story my boss told his boss and my coworkers, and I went along with it because there was no reason to make waves on my way out.

          1. JustaTech*

            When my coworker (recently) left for a new job that both paid way more and was a 10 minute commute instead of a hour+, HR was weirdly combative (in her words) about the commute thing. Something like “a commute is no reason to change jobs” or something.

            This coworker had also been pushing hard for more WFH (our director had suddenly decided the pandemic was over for our department and we all needed to be in every day rather than just the days when we needed to use the equipment), because of her commute.

        2. Pickled Limes*

          I’m going to assume this happens a lot. I’ve done it, and will (hopefully) do it again sometime in the next few months. When you’re leaving a job that doesn’t treat you well and you just want to be done with it, it’s so much easier to say “I’m quitting my job so I can have a better commute” than anything else.

        3. A Feast of Fools*

          I interned at a company who had an office location near my university’s campus, which was ~30 minutes from my house, maybe 45 minutes in traffic.

          They made me a generous job offer, I accepted, and then — during Onboarding Week at the corporate office (in a different state) — I was told that my job was actually based three towns away from the university-adjacent location… in the opposite direction of my house.

          My commute went from 30-45 minutes each way to TWO HOURS EACH WAY.

          They offered no remote work options and, when I tried to discuss it with the VP of my business unit, she told me that it had been *my* responsibility to inquire about my permanent work location. She also insinuated that my not asking was a poor reflection on my assertiveness and attention to detail.

          When I left, I definitely said it was because of the commute because that was the easiest answer and glaringly obvious to even the most casual observer. But, really, the place was a dumpster fire.

      2. BadWolf*

        Based on past experiences, managers around my parts are quite skeptical when people claim the commute between our smaller city and bigger city will be totally fine.

      3. Gap Year Anon*

        This is what I thought too. My company is in the Bay Area and one of our offices is quite a commute from where our talent pool tends to live. We have continuously had a problem with people leaving that branch due to commute. I’ve been here a while so I’ve seen people rotate in and out of roles there after insisting in interviews that they were okay with the commute, but I’ve done it a handful of times and it sucks. It involves a stressful series of merging with other aggressive and angry commuters. It burns people out quickly.

        I imagine that applicants that don’t live near the office probably get asked multiple questions about why they know that they can handle the commute because it’s been a problem for so many other former employees.

    2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      I wonder how clear the OP was on this point. They do state that they had mentioned to the boss that it was comparable to their current commute, but that’s not quite the same as “My current commute can be almost double that due to traffic, so I would actually enjoy having a more consistent travel time!”.
      The bosses’ reactions are definitely odd, but even moreso if the OP was very clear that the new commute would be an improvement on their current one.

      1. OP3*

        Hi, OP here – during the first interview, the exact timeframe of my commute was brought up, and I gave the same information as in my letter. It was the first question I got about the commute.

        1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

          Thanks for confirming! Then yes, it’s definitely weird that they were so fixated on this. I agree with others that it sounds like they’ve been burned with employee/s who claimed the commute wouldn’t be a problem. Until it was.
          But if that is the case they should just say that. Or if it’s truly a deal breaker, only interview/hire people who live close to the office. The way they are expressing their concerns just seems very intense and.. odd.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, years ago while I was still a university student, I was interviewed for a position in the library on the opposite side of the street from my alma mater.

      They said something about the commute (the train ride alone is exactly an hour but seeing how it also takes me time to get from my house to the station and then later from the station to the university, it was more like 1.5 hours minimum, although people who don’t use public transport generally tend to forget that) and I answere that yeah, I’m doing this almost every day anyway and have been doing so far five years at this point.

      It wasn’t an issue at all and I felt like the fact that this had been a thing I’d been doing for a long time already completely convinced them (and I did get offered the job! I ended up not taking it for unrelated reasons but that made it even clearer that my commute wasn’t a problem to them).

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah, commute time is one of those things that’s really easy for people to put rose-colored glasses on during the interview process, so I understand why they care. It’s also virtually entirely outside of the employer’s control, so it’s a really frustrating thing to see impacting someone’s commitment and happiness.

      That said, I agree with Alison that an hour is not that bad, especially if someone already has experience with a commute like that?

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I worked for a company once that was always so concerned about commute time and it took a lot of convincing that an hour was the norm. They opened a new office in a bigger city, where it took some people an hour to go 12 miles…but coming from a smaller city where the longest tolerable commute was 20 minutes they just couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

    5. Allonge*

      Maybe with all the ‘everyone wants to work from home now’ talk around, they are super sensitive to it? It’s still weird, though…

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I was thinking the same thing!

        I live in an urban area surrounded by rural areas. It’s just a given that some people will have a long commute, especially in the winter.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      The main weirdness here is their thinking that an hour commute is the least bit unusual. Likely, they either lost an employee whose idea of an excessive commute was much lower, or (more likely, I would guess) the grandboss hates commuting and projects this on others. Either way, it is an inability for abstract thought, which is itself a red flag.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I wonder if there’s some characteristic of the commute (like a particularly overcrowded and often-late train line or something) that’s making them question it? Because I agree, an hour is not that long…

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I think length of commute is really dependent on both area and culture. I grew up in a city (lol, it was a city just) where a 1 hour commute would have been you live in deep countryside territory and now I’m in London where an hour is average and I’m ‘lucky’ that my current commute is a 20-25 minute walk.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. It hugely depends on where you are and what the norm is. I live in London and my commute is about 1 hour and that’s normal. I quite enjoy it because I can read / doze / think deep thoughts. The company lets us flex arrival times slightly so I can miss the worst rush hour. Nobody would dream of driving into London so everyone in my company has a similar journey time.

            My contact in a similar company in the Netherlands thinks everyone should cycle into the office, can not envisage anything else and spends 30 minutes cycling in. You could not pay me enough to cycle in London. I’ve a friend in Luxembourg who has a 10 minute walk and thinks that’s very normal.

            Everyone has their own idea of normal and a lot of people think what they do is the right way to do it. It’s like the question we’ve had before about whether people should have to drive 5 hours to a conference or whether they can fly. Reasonable travel time depends on where you are, where you’re coming from and to and what the norms are.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              Ironically our new office is right on the Greenway, so we’re predicting a big increase of people biking into work (and there is proper bike storage, showers, lockers etc. to facilitate it)

          2. Windchime*

            Exactly this. When I lived near Seattle, an hour commute was nothing and people did much longer commutes all the time. I only lived 30 miles away but it could easily take me an hour to get there (sometimes more!) due to traffic. I now live in a small, somewhat isolated city and an hour commute would mean that someone lived 60-70 miles away. That long of a commute would probably give an employer pause here.

            1. Cat Tree*

              This reminds me of an experience I had years ago. At the time, I was working and commuting in the DC area, which has some of the worst traffic in the country. A few of us spent a few weeks at a sister site in a small town in Arizona. One of my coworkers who always worked there apologized about the rush hour traffic, which meant I waited for a few minutes at a few stoplights. I thought the traffic there was great, he thought it was terrible. It’s a matter of perspective.

        2. quill*

          It could just be that it’s an INCONSISTENT commute. Say they live anywhere northerly in the winter. A 1.25 hour commute in good weather can easily become a 2 hour commute with the first person who sails into a guardrail the first time it snows, and if the position is coverage based, there’s plenty of concern that the further a person lives away from work, the more it would take near omnipotence to time your commute so that you arrive On Time rather than early or late every day.

          Living just outside the Chicago halo and commuting into it, I had a pretty reasonable 35-45 minute commute, but it was shorter in terms of time than people crossing the suburbs from closer by mileage. That said, every time a semi jackknifed across the road I was 15-30 minutes late, between navigating the accident and missing the pre-rush-hour window of decent traffic. People who didn’t travel on the highway seldom got delayed more than 15 minutes.

          Currently I have a 15 minute commute and while I HAVE been delayed by road work, the train… it’s rarely more than 5 minutes. It’s still like 1/3 of my commute time if I have to wait for a forklift to cross the road, but a winter pileup or road washout from back in the midwest could add a third to half onto my commute time to much more drastic results.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        For me an hour commute would be intolerable! I only commute by bike, and any more than half-an-hour would be too tiring for me. If they’ve already lost people because of the commute it could very well be a sticking point for them.

      3. An Hour is... Normal Though?*


        Like, the Point A to Point B taking an hour would be a bit much, but… where I live, lots of places just conveniently fail to invest in parking (read: community frowns upon the impact of cars, so nobody ever builds in enough parking to save money and nudge people towards bus/bike and stuff), and total time of an hour after you factor in looking for parking (and all to often walk from the parking to the building)? Yeah, that’s just a fact of living here. Not to mention, where I work we have tons of folks who live one town over, and those folks have a downright brutal commute every day because you can’t really just take a bus one town to the other every morning and afternoon like that.

        My first question is whether boss and grandboss were, like… so hilariously overpaid that neither one had personally driven anywhere in the last decade (or more)? Or maybe partnered into that kind of wealth? Yeah, workplaces that filter for an hour being way too long a commute are definitely leaving out a ton of people anywhere that has any notable population. Like, there are reasons people invest in mechanisms (books, radios, a smartphone/tablet that can play video all day long) explicitly to pass the time during a commute.

        I am also very confused (and borderline concerned) that the bosses think this is an issue based on the time alone. Part of me really hopes there’s an update down the road that sheds some light on whatever missing key piece of information explains this bizarre disconnect from reality.

        1. PT*

          Ugh I lived in one of those places. They’d not have parking and say “Be green! Don’t drive! Walk, bike, or take mass transit!”

          But then there was a) no viable mass transit for whole swaths of the area b) no safe sidewalks along huge parts of the area c) no safe places to ride a bike unless you took a circuitous route and d) if you couldn’t bring your bike in with you at your destination it would get stolen off a bike rack. If you had children or were elderly or disabled and couldn’t walk the mile to the bus stop on broken sidewalks on each end of the trip, you were out of luck.

        2. Koala dreams*

          Yes, it’s annoying when cities cut down on parking and don’t realize they need to make more bike paths and better public transport. Also, good bike and foot paths can be used for many purposes, so they are very cost-effective.

      4. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes maybe it’s a small town or something, but in almost any city an hour is going to be average / not that bad. Especially in most cities where most of the jobs are in the urban core but only higher earners can afford to live close to there.

      5. BadWolf*

        I live in a very small city and many people have a very short commute as they are able to live in the city. The public transit is extremely limited and anything outside the city is wee small towns and a lot of wide open prairie that can be a bear in the winter. So long commutes are unusual. If people are living in Big City Area and driving over here, they usually decide they might as well get a job in Big City Area instead of driving to small city. But this is a unique scenario.

      6. alienor*

        I think it’s location-dependent, but definitely where I live, an hour isn’t out of the ordinary at all. It would be a deal-breaker for me personally–I had an hour commute for a few years in my early 20s and was so miserable that I’ve avoided any commute over 20 minutes ever since–but I have plenty of coworkers who have done it daily for a decade or more. Though I do think now that more people have had a taste of what it’s like not to do that commute, they’re less inured to it and may find it more burdensome.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Hard agree with your last statement. I’m chafing at the thought of having to deal with any commute (and prep time) associated with going into the office for the day, and they’re only asking for 2 days/week so far.

          On the length of commute by time, the bigger factor for me is how the traffic moves. I don’t really mind my regular 30 min commute opposite traffic, but the same length of time in the other direction (to another office location) means going only 5 miles in all stop-and-go traffic. I couldn’t do that regularly even if it’s objectively the same length of time because it’s just so much more stressful.

        2. knitting librarian (with cats)*

          For me, it’s definitely location dependent.
          When I lived in Philadelphia, I had a commute that would have been 25 to 30 minutes without traffic, but during rush hour was pretty consistently an hour. And that hour required high concentration, as the roads were crowded and people were constantly merging into traffic from entrance ramps and changing lanes.
          Now that I live in Maine, I commute to two locations. One is maybe 5 minutes, if I hit the two traffic lights the wrong way. The other is about an hour ~ but it’s always 55 to 60 minutes, and I see few other cars except for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Still need to concentrate but not the way I had to on the Philadelphia commute, so the hour is much, much less stressful! In fact, it’s almost pleasant ~ pretty scenery, nice music or a good podcast, time to think or unwind ;-)

      7. middle name danger*

        My commute was brought up several times when interviewing for my current position. I guess they had people back out because of long commutes…except my commute isn’t long at all! Anything under half an hour is completely reasonable! I’m only driving 20-25 minutes each way and there’s a parking lot, so I don’t have to factor in time to find parking or walk from a garage. I don’t know who thought that was so long they dropped out of the interview process.

      8. Just a Cog in the Machine*

        It all depends on where you are. Where I live, an hour commute is at least somewhat unusual, and most of the people who have one are making lots of money and working in a niche industry, making it worth it. We also have bad snow at least a few times a year, making commuting for that long unsafe, and until COVID, working from home was NOT an option. Neither is commuting during non-rush hour times. (And road construction is currently making an hour-long commute from some areas take MUCH longer.)

        We hired someone a few years ago who was having just a 40-minute commute (or so), and my boss felt much safer about it knowing his inlaws lived in this town and if bad weather was expected, he would stay the night there. (He has since moved to this town, which was always the plan, at least partially to be close to work.) Then, we hired someone a little over a year ago who lived 40 minutes away with mostly country-road commuting. On his second or so day in the office, he was VERY late because of the weather/roads, and then wanted to be able to leave shortly after lunch to go home so he wouldn’t be driving those roads in the dark. Thankfully (not because of this), he lasted only a few days before deciding this job wasn’t for him because we he couldn’t just work the way he wanted and he had to actually follow our process/rules/etc.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      My guess is that this is going to be one of those employers who calls you in at last minute or has you on call and if someone has to commute over an hour they are t going to be able to get people in at the last minute.

    8. RecoveringSWO*

      The fact that LW’s prospective commute is against traffic leads me to believe that the interviewer has been working in the suburbs so long that they’re (wrongly) struggling to comprehend having a long commute. I’ve commuted against traffic from a city to the suburbs twice before. One job had multiple people coming from the metro area and long commutes were normal, the other job was pretty much all people who had lived in the suburbs and most people would have found a longer commute to be more stressful. Either way, the inability for the interviewer to accept LW’s reasonable explanation is clearly a red flag.

  8. PollyQ*

    LW2 — Your math is off. If your employee spent 1 day out of 5 weeks on pumping, then the total for the year would be ~10 days, not 10 weeks.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      40 hours is roughly five days work, so 40 hours in five weeks means 20% of the employee’s time is spent pumping. In a 50 week work year, that is indeed 10 weeks of paid pumping.

      From a pumping perspective an hour and a half pumping is a reasonable amount in an 8 or 9 hour work day, but from a work perspective, 20% of your time being paid while not doing work tasks is a lot.

    2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      90 minutes a day x 5 days a week x 52 weeks a year = 390 hours, or 9.75 weeks at 40 hours per week. That’s assuming the employee doesn’t take vacation, of course.

      To be clear, I don’t think the employer has a leg to stand on here, but their math is sound.

      1. Maggie*

        The statement “20% of your time being paid while not doing work tasks” makes me irrationally ragey for the nursing employee because pumping is SO. MUCH. WORK. It’s exhausting and demoralizing and hard to feel professional… if I knew my employer was unhappy with how long it took me to pump, that would mess with my letdown reflex and would only make pumping take more time, not less. Ugh, I’m still so scarred by my traumatic pumping experience from baby 1. People need to understand it’s like peeing. Lactating women can’t NOT lactate, and if they don’t they’ll get physically ill, just like someone who wasn’t allowed bathroom breaths would eventually get a kidney infection.

        1. GamerGirl*

          YES, being able to successfully feed her child is what’s making LW2’s employee otherwise able to work. Does she want her to get mastitis? Stop being able to feed her child? Pumping is incredibly hard–I speak from experience. I had to stop pumping because it was very painful for me. I’m impressed by anyone who can keep going for so long!

          I was lucky to be WFH while breastfeeding, so I could work and feed at the same time, or, before naptime when I needed to be in a darkened room, 10 mins rather than 30+. If they want her to be done “quicker”, then let her WFH and feed the baby there! Also, it’s incredibly short-sighted to deny her the specific benefit you agreed to when you hired her. What a morale-killer, not only for her but also for other people who might become parents. Being family-friendly only when it suits you is not actually family-friendly at all.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In fairness to the OP, they didn’t suggest she shouldn’t be able to pump; they asked about having her make up some of the billable hours. (Also, in fairness to the OP, a *lot* of employers have pumping time be unpaid, so they’ve offered something over and above; they’re just having sticker shock now that they realize its impact on billable hours.)

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              that was my sense too. It just seems to be taking more time out of a work day, in fairly sizeable chunks, than they thought it would going on past experience. I don’t get any unkind vibe, it’s just that they imagined they had an employee who might need 30-45 mins (or whatever) on top of any lunch / loo breaks, and now they have someone who needs an extra 90 minutes out of every single working day.

              It does seem like quite a bit, when it’s put like that.

            2. Julia*

              I didn’t realize a lot of employers don’t pay for pumping time! Thats’s pretty awful.

            3. GamerGirl*

              Sure, that’s a very fair point. I’m also coming from the EU perspective (which other commenters above have mentioned) working in a country where pumping is expected to be paid time and putting pressure on a nursing mom to go above and beyond that to make up the time could be legally sanctioned, so I’m probably not exactly on the same page as far as expectations go!

              Thinking it over, I guess what I was trying to express (ha!) as my main point was: if they expect her to be in the office and start to ask if she can make up the time “lost” to the pre-agreed paid pumping, she might experience stress over how long its taking, leading to reduced milk production and a lot more difficulty during let down and might feel like she has to hurry up pumping (which could lead to a lot of problems, like mastitis).

              Whereas, if they offered to have her work from home for the remainder of breastfeeding (if it’s possible!) to reduce time spent pumping, this could be a mutually beneficial arrangement with very short nursing times instead of yanking the paid pumping time for in-office work.

              1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

                To me, this raises some interesting questions about how we view these issues. In many countries, as you point out, the legal obligation means that companies needn’t ask themselves the moral question. Additionally, in these places the company would be supported by an existing system set things up to manage (or even subsidize) some of these expenses.

                With OP, we have someone who is going above and beyond what her system requires. It’s hardly surprising that she wouldn’t necessarily have considered all factors.

                Because these growing pains are part of what discourages change in the first place, I hope the overall tone of the comments is encouraging even as we give critical feedback. OP is trying to do right and seeking counsel, checking for what’s reasonable. She is trying to do better than the system she’s in, and that’s always a good thing….and also often a hard thing.

                1. Batgirl*

                  I’m always quietly impressed by how many letter writers here want to better than the system, even when they struggle. I live in a country with pretty good legal workers rights, but the downside is I seem to only encounter employers who want to do no more than the minimum required.

            4. Lizy*

              eeehhhh but is there really an impact on billable hours? OP didn’t say anything about the other employee’s hours when she was nursing/pumping. How does NewMom stack up against the other employee?

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Lots of things are SO MUCH WORK but that doesn’t make my employer responsible for paying me while I do them. If I have to take my elderly parents to the doctor, which is a ton of work, I have to use vacation time to do it–I do get paid, yes, but it comes out of my PTO.

          1. nothing rhymes with purple*

            Yes, but do you have to take them every single day?

            And if you had worked it out with your company that they would not make you take PTO for up to 6 appointments a month, and then 5 months later they said, “sorry, we changed our mind, you need to start working weekends without pay to make up the appointments you already took your parent to,” would that be fair?

  9. AcademiaNut*

    In general, is pumping time in addition to regular lunch and coffee breaks? Because my experience with coworkers is that they’ll either pump during lunch (plus a session mid morning and mid afternoon), or they’ll pump while working on something (reading documents, for example) and take a full lunch break.

    1. Maggie*

      I just want to point out that many jobs are public facing and this “luxury” of pumping while working is not an option. Also, asking a mother to give up/work through her breaks and lunch every day is common, but incredibly cruel. Pumping on a schedule where other people were relying on me to be done in X minutes so I could return to supervise others’ safety was one of the most stressful and traumatic experiences of my life.

      1. Klio*

        Well, the company claims to be pro-family. I guess the question is, just for pr or are they willing to put their actions where their claims are.

        1. Amaranth*

          It sounds like they suddenly realized how *much* of a benefit this turned out to be and are feeling uncomfortable that they made this promise without doing the math.

          1. disco bandit*

            It’s like when employers do weight loss or quit smoking campaigns to lower their health insurance costs. Which is icky enough, but then the next stage is only hiring young, healthy people who can’t get pregnant.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        Some jobs do, which are the ones I’m most familiar with. That’s why I’m asking, as I don’t know what the standard generally is. If places don’t offer unlimited, whenever you want, pumping time, how is it typically done? And how do they manage it for jobs with coverage requirements?

        1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

          This is why women drop out of the workforce or switch to formula before they might otherwise.

          1. Mary Connell*

            Yep. Compromise your employees’ careers, compromise their babies’ health…or decide to be honestly family friendly and create a happy and loyal workforce.

            Doesn’t sound like a difficult choice. Why is it for so many employers?

            1. rain*

              There’s nothing wrong with formula, and suggesting that there is is pretty offensive to the millions of women who feed their babies formula.

              1. KX*

                There is nothing wrong with formula. But it is E X P E N S I V E. And the bottle washing and the measuring and the hassle of having it in the house… it’s got non-nutritional downsides.

                It can be a big financial burden.

              2. Seacalliope*

                There is nothing wrong with formula. There is something wrong with forcing women to make a choice they do not want in terms of feeding their baby.

      3. LizM*

        This thread is giving me flashbacks to try to pump, deal with all the equipment and keep it sterile, eat my lunch without making a huge mess, all on the little tiny table my company had in the pumping room in the 30 min lunch I had.

    2. TotallyNormal*

      I wondered this too! I pumped at work and would often take busy-work with me: envelopes to stuff, documents to edit, memos to read, etc. It made my pumping session go more quickly and kept me from falling behind on tasks, so I felt less like a burden!

    3. Salsa Verde*

      I also wondered what other ways pumping could be handled? Do other employers make pumping mothers use leave time? Or take unpaid leave, if they don’t have any leave time left since they just got off of maternity leave? Or work more to make up the time?

      1. Dweali*

        I’m non exempt in Oklahoma and would have been able to fudge an extra 5 min during my 15 min breaks but if it took more than 20 then would have had to clock out.

        1. Maggie*

          I was public facing. I showed up to work early and pumped immediately before clocking in, then I had one break where I raced the clock while another employee provided coverage, I pumped again on the latest lunch break available, and pumped a last time immediately after I clocked out. It. Was. Miserable.

  10. Zelda*

    In general I’m on board with what Alison has to say to LW1, but I thought this bit deserved notice:

    “we work in a professional environment where interpersonal violence is not a concern”

    Because violence only happens among those unwashed blue-collar types? I mean, yes, emotions do tend to be a bit buttoned down in office environments, but as for thinking that somehow absolutely prevents violence… human beings are capable of violence.

    1. Kathlynn (canada)*

      yeah, remember the LW who had to quit their job because their employer was bought by another company and their new manager hated them? And they couldn’t get reassigned. (there was an affair there, but that’s not important to the fact that bullying of any type can happen at any place)

    2. Nona*

      I feel like you’re reading too much into that. There’s plenty of examples of unprofessional white-collar working places, and I think they were more eluding to professional in general than throwing in some random classist quip.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Does anyone else remember the letter where someone got bitten at work? Pretty sure that was in a white collar job.

        1. quill*

          The boss who peed in a cup and poured it in the sink was in a white collar office too, iirc…

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Good point, I’ve worked in white-collar jobs and saw behaviour that would get you fired in a blue-collar job.

      3. ophelia*

        Yeah, I read it as, “our office generally isn’t a dumpster fire, people behave professionally” not “we’re extra classy”?

    3. Myrin*

      OP said literally nothing about blue collar work.

      I feel like it’s pretty clear that she meant “professional” in the sense of “we are a professional workplace full of hopefully reasonable adults, not a camp of barely-tamed swamp monsters who could be expected to fly off the handle at any given moment”.

      Also, I do want to remind people that whenever we have letters that allude to possible violence in the workplace, there are always commenters asking in the exact same vein of the attitude you talk about here something along the lines of “Wow, OP, the fact that your mind jumped to actual violence at all makes me think that you’re in [industry] where it’s incredibly common for people to sock each other whenever they get the chance!”, so I think it was wise of OP to pre-emptively mention that this is not a concern at her place of work.

          1. quill*

            Oh good, I still have a couple weeks to think of a good excuse to get out of that one.

            Is severe allergy to mosquitoes good enough, do you think?

            1. ophelia*

              We’ll be sending each employee a permethrin-treated suit and a spray b0ttle full of DEET, just to ensure your comfort in the swamp!

              1. quill*

                I’m actually a lab coat full of bees, so I cannot be in the same suit as DEET, but have fun with the swam monsters!

    4. Caroline Bowman*

      Yes sure, I take the point, but tone-policing seems a bit unfair here, given that the OP is in an awful situation and was trying to explain that they are all professional people, not prone to shouting or violence.

      Of course everyone is capable of violence, but in this kind of scenario, it’s more likely that the intern and the ex are now facing the fallout of their disgusting actions and awful betrayal and getting flak from colleagues, and don’t like those consequences, so are trying to stir up drama.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      In this context, I read it as OP using professional to indicate that the boundaries are generally respected in her workplace, people typically manage their emotions and personal issues aren’t brought up unless they are clearly impacting work. This could be true (or untrue) of a white collar or blue collar enivornment.

      I’d say it’s more of a workplace culture / leadership issue than a class issue. There are plenty of white-collar companies where unprofessional practices like open displays of anger, manager/subordinate relationships or heavy drinking are normalised.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “I am in a workplace where biting the office manager would be unusual.”

      2. llamaswithouthats*

        Yeah – so many AAM posts are mostly from white collar workers in dysfunctional environments lol. OP was just providing context that normal workplace behavior at her company is usually good, which is why this intern manager’s behavior stood out.

    6. LW1*

      Hi I’m the letter writer, I appreciate that the wording may have been unclear but that wasn’t in any way a classist remark – I meant it as two separate clauses, that the environment is both professional and one in which violence is not a concern. I actually understated the case somewhat – my work has an exhaustive selection process and requires security clearance and multiple rounds of psychological evaluation, which makes it hard to imagine that someone with violent tendencies or a propensity to snap would end up working there in the first place. I included that sentence to emphasize how bizarre the intern’s manager’s concern seemed to me, not as a dig at blue-collar workers or an implication that violence is unthinkable in professional environments. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear that up!

      1. KuklaRed*

        Hi LW1. I just wanted to say that this is a really lousy situation and I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I think the intern’s manager was so far out of line, he was in outer space and your ex is a heel. Keep your head up and try and stay above the fray.

        I think your ex should be facing some kind of disciplinary action for getting involved with an intern, but maybe that’s just me.

        1. LW1*

          Thank you for your kind words! When I wrote in I was just looking for guidance and I didn’t realize how good it would feel to get this kind of feedback but reading the comments has been really helpful both logistically and emotionally.
          I honestly don’t know where I stand on the question of disciplinary action (which is obviously out of my control entirely). On a personal level I haven’t yet processed the break up enough to be indifferent towards my ex and it pains me that he is in this position even though he brought it entirely on himself and hurt me terribly in the process, but in principle I think the power differential is very problematic and the relationship sends a message that the many 19- and 20-year old interns in our office are “fair game” to anyone who wants to take a shot, and something should be done to make it clear that this isn’t okay.
          It’s possible that there have already been repercussions that have been handled privately with him, and in any case it’s my understanding that his manager found out about the situation from someone in my unit (possibly my manager?) and not from my ex which I’m sure didn’t make the manager happy at all, so there is likely to be some kind of professional fallout for him.

          1. Batgirl*

            Having been through something similar myself, just be really, really nice to yourself and surround yourself with all of the favorite things and your favorite people and with happy busy-ness, whatever you decide on the employment front. For me it was a new chapter so I hope it is for you too. Honestly, best of luck mate.

      2. Ooh La La*

        OP, given the unusual level of employee screening, do you think your ex will face any professional consequences for now having begun two romantic relationships with coworkers (one of whom is an intern, which seems icky overall)?

        1. LW1*

          Romantic relationships between employees aren’t prohibited and are even tacitly encouraged in my office (I know that’s weird) – there are systems in place to separate employees who start dating if they work too closely together or if there’s a power differential issue, but as long as everyone is upfront and plays by the rules it’s very much condoned. It’s not unusual for employees to work 60 hour weeks in their first few years on the job and combined with other factors this makes other employees the most promising dating pool for a young, single hire. My relationship with my ex was common knowledge in the office and very much condoned and I don’t think it will be held against him now.
          The relationship with the intern is an entirely different matter as it was conducted in secret and with a significant power imbalance – I expect at the very least he has had some very uncomfortable conversations with HR and his boss by this point but I have no way of knowing whether there will be more concrete repercussions for him, and if there are I am sure they will about his unethical conduct with the intern and not about his “pattern” of dating coworkers.

          1. Ooh La La*

            Thank you for replying! That’s really interesting (about encouraging romantic relationships), although it makes sense that an office full of young people working long hours would naturally lead to some amount of pairing up.

            The optics of dating an intern in secret are truly terrible, and it’s so inappropriate and disturbing that the intern’s manager contacted your coworker. You should absolutely loop in your manager and HR. I hope you get the backup you need to keep doing your job in peace, and the company deals with your ex, the intern, and her manager while keeping you out of it.

            And I’m sorry for the painful situation you’re in — it truly sucks.

          2. Observer*

            I would say that this is even more reason to go to HR about the phone call. The intern’s manager was totally inappropriate in what he did, so that itself is an issue, of course. But given what you say it sound like either Ex or Intern made some fairly nasty complaints about you, or Manager is totally out of the norm in how stuff like this is handled in your organization. The latter is not great, but the former could pose a real problem for you, so you want to get ahead of that, as well.

      3. nothing rhymes with purple*

        I just wanted to say I send you strength as you deal with this awful situation not at all of your making.

      4. WentThroughSomethingSimilarToLW1*

        Hi LW1, I don’t know if you know about, but that site was so helpful to me after I went through my husband suddenly leaving me for someone he worked with. We are in the same industry, but I did not work in his office, though I did do some freelance with his company and we all crossed paths. Anyhow, this is so painful, and it’s so brutal. But it gets better eventually. Thinking of you…

      5. Zelda*

        “my work has an exhaustive selection process and requires security clearance and multiple rounds of psychological evaluation, which makes it hard to imagine that someone with violent tendencies or a propensity to snap would end up working there in the first place”

        Ah, yes, that is a great deal more clear! Even with Alison’s read above re: ‘nobody is generally unprofessional,’ I was still a little uneasy with a sweeping “It could never happen here.” But I see why you have specific reasons that your workplace is actually different.

    7. llamaswithouthats*

      This interpretation is a reach. OP could have just been referring to work culture.

  11. The intern with the blue dress on*

    Re: math for LW2 – I think 90 minutes a day equals almost 8 hours a week, or one full day every 5 days, not every 5 weeks. So that is 20% of her time – still less than allowed in the Netherlands, apparently, but not 10 days a year. !0 weeks a year is accurate, I think. (1 day a week times 50 weeks a year equals 50 days equals 10 business weeks of 5 days a week.)

    Re: the intern – I guess the intern does not work for the boyfriend? Because I recall in the US we once had a president who had an affair with an intern, and the power imbalance between older male management and younger intern employee made quite the stink. :) At the time, the intern made it clear that it was consensual, but I think from what I have read, she has revisited that of late, possibly deciding that a 24 year old employee was really in no position to consent to an affair with her older, married boss, because he was older and her boss. I think on AAM, it is routinely suggested that supervisors not sleep with their subordinates for exactly that reason. Maybe this is why Alison’s answer suggested that the manager was going after the wrong person. It seems to me this is rather more important than indicated. Maybe the LW needs to mention that to her manager when asking that this line of inquiry be shut down. even if they don’t have office policies against fraternization, it seems like it should be raised.

    1. WS*

      Well, LW doesn’t know whether or not her ex was also contacted (and he definitely should be). If LW is in charge of the intern in some way, making it clear that retaliation isn’t acceptable is a reasonable thing to do, but that’s something they need to talk to the LW about, not her temporary roommate!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If the intern works for the ex, that’s a huge issue (although not one for the LW to deal with) but I’m assuming that would have been mentioned if it were the case. I’d argue it’s still Not Okay for a 30something employee to sleep with a college-aged intern though (but again, not the LW’s issue to deal with and I’m sure she doesn’t want to get even more involved in the situation).

      1. Observer*

        I’d argue it’s still Not Okay for a 30something employee to sleep with a college-aged intern though (but again, not the LW’s issue to deal with and I’m sure she doesn’t want to get even more involved in the situation).

        To be honest, those were my first two thoughts when I read this one.

        1. SwiftSunrise*

          Agreed! That is just … incredibly skeevy. I keep thinking of the movie “The Ides of March,” with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney:
          “You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t [eff] the interns. They get you for that.”

            1. SwiftSunrise*

              The play it was based on, “Farrgut North,” came out in 2008 and was apparently based on Howard Dean’s 2004 primary run for president; the movie came out in 2011!

        2. Well...*

          Yes, very sad this happened to LW in this way, but honestly bullet dodged (where the bullet is the remaining years that would have been wasted on this guy). Now it’s out in the open that he is gross.

      2. Elenna*

        Yeah, since she’s an intern and he’s not, I expect there’s a general feeling that he has authority over her even if she’s not technically reporting to him. Certainly when I was an intern I would have felt that way. But as Alison said, not LW’s responsibility to deal with.

      3. LW1*

        The intern and my ex work in the same department but on different teams and have different managers – the intern doesn’t answer to the ex. I work in a different department and had some professional overlap with my ex on specific projects, and none with the intern.
        I do assume that the issue has been addressed with my ex (by HR and his manager at the least) but I have no way of knowing specifics or whether the intern’s manager spoke to him or to his manager or mine in addition to Diana because none of those people would have told me about it.
        I actually suspect that the intern’s manager didn’t speak with my manager about it because my manager can be a bit of a pitbull and I can imagine that a similar call to my manager would have ended with a curt suggestion to the intern’s manager that he mind his own employees and let my manager worry about me.
        Alison’s advice that I let my manager know what’s going on and ask for his help in dealing with it feels right to me – it was my knee jerk reaction and I just wanted confirmation that it wasn’t a bad idea. I’ll also ask him whether he thinks I need to document this with HR – he’s been with the organization over a decade and I trust his judgment on that more than my own. I go back to work tomorrow and I’m not jazzed about it but I feel a lot better having a plan of action. Thank you to Alison and all the commenters for your help!

        1. Batgirl*

          Your boss sounds great; just the sort of no nonsense medicine for this palaver. Honestly what on earth do they expect you to do about the misbehaviour of others?

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Please update us. I am glad you can feel confident that your boss will have your back!

    3. Fierce Jindo*

      It wasn’t controversial because of the power dynamics (though it should’ve been) but because of Puritanism. The people who care about consent are usually feminists, and prominent feminist individuals and organizations lined up behind Clinton because they cared more about party politics than Lewinsky. A shameful episode from every corner in politics.

      1. Observer*

        SO MUCH THIS.

        It was infuriating to see “feminist icons” blaming *her* and pretty much calling her a slut.

    4. Nobody Important*

      Fairly certain you are misremembering the president/intern situation.

      One group was searching for a reason to pillory the president with anything they could find. They didn’t care about the power imbalance in the least.

      The other defended it as “two consenting adults, it’s between the president and his wife.” It wasn’t until after the rise of #metoo that this group had a “hey, wait a minute” moment about the power imbalance.

      I should note that both groups were very happy to make countless jokes on the intern though.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that everyone dismissed or overlooked the power imbalance and did not call him out on it, or each other out for calling Lewinsky names and acting like she was to blame. He was still in the situation of his own making, and she was still in a far more vulnerable position, and it destroyed her life in many ways. That one group was doing something really wrong doesn’t mean that the other group didn’t screw up in any way.

        1. Nobody Important*

          It was directly implied in my post that I wasn’t giving anybody a pass on this. The treatment she received from both sides of the aisle was absolutely atrocious.

  12. Kristen K*

    #2 – It certainly can take up to a half hour to pump, sometimes even longer. Pumping 3 times during an 8 hour work day is also certainly normal. I used to pump 8 ounces in 15 minutes; it took my friend over 45 minutes to get that much. Your underestimating how long it will take her is not her issue.

    1. Jess*

      Just commenting in admiration of your lactating prowess! That’s SO MUCH, I’m jealous X-D

    2. FridayFriyay*

      I’m so jealous! I pump 3x during my work day currently and in 30 mins only get 2oz from both sides combined. I’m stressed just reading this letter.

      1. Fabulous*

        Right there with you!!! I’ve gone from 4oz combined in the AM, then 2-3 combined throughout the day to just 2oz in the AM and 1.5-2.25 throughout the day. I guess that’s what I get at 9 months in now??

    3. nothing rhymes with purple*

      “Your underestimating how long it will take her is not her issue.”

      i wish I could hire a plane to skywrite this.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP #1 – I’m going to go one further than Alison, and say that YOU should be going to HR about the call the intern’s manager made to your friend. For the intern’s manager to do that was – at best – incredibly rude and unprofessional. If he had had any legitimate concerns, he would have gone to HR. Instead, he went to someone who’s not even involved in the situation. What, exactly, did he think the outcome of that was going to be?!?! That Diana would tell you to watch your Ps and Qs to not make the intern uncomfortable?!??!

    1. Ellie*

      This is a great idea – get ahead of it and get it on the record that you have no idea where this came from, but of course you are intending on being scrupulously professional. HR should know about it anyway if there’s a chance she could be taken on permanently. The whole thing is very weird and it makes me wonder if her manager has a soft spot for her too. Either way, they could be trying to avoid the awkwardness by easing you out, so its a good precaution to talk to HR before anyone else does, and this is a great excuse to do it.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this. OP#1, I know you’re feeling pretty raw right now, but you need to get ahead of this. Tell your manager AND HR at once.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, you want your calm, sane, normal person version to be laid out early here to the senior people who can rain intern’s manager in. This is not a time to rise above petty office gossip.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      My theory is that Diana and LW have ovaries, and thus intern’s manager is pretty sure they should be doing something to alleviate all this awkwardness.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        …I loathe that it’s plausible the intern’s manager is actually thinking this.


    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I agree with this as well. At best the manager was just wanting some reassurance – but that should have come from the OP, not an uninvolved third party. I think an FYI to LW1’s manager and then current temporary roommate and LW1 need to go to HR and just be very “this is an odd phone call I got” in the tone of reporting the fact that the sky is normally blue.

      Question I have though – did the odd call come to temporary roommate’s office desk or her house? Because that’s a really big overstep if it was to her house and potentially outside of normal work hours.

      1. Dona Florinda*

        That’s a very good point. If the manager called your roommate’s home, that’s another reason to go to HR since is such a huge overstep of boundaries. But even if that’s not case, you should still report this, what the manager did was wrong on so many levels.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I assumed cell phone. If it was to a home line, then I agree, that’s another bizarre and disturbing misstep by the intern’s manager.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I agree. I think you should be speaking to HR about the fact that your friend was brought into this at all, and also to make sure that they are aware of the situation and that while you will of course continue to behave entirely professionally and will work with ex and with intern if necessary that you are concerns about the managers behaviour and will leave it to HR to consider whether the relationship itself creates any issues from an HR standpoint.

    6. Lucky*

      Intern’s manager should be more concerned with the senior employee who started a secret sexual relationship with an intern. That dude should be fired.

  14. Anono-me*

    Op1. Suspicious interpretation: Either the Ex &/or the Intern has been painting you as irrational, hysterical, and possibly dangerous in an effort to deflect the judgment about the sneaking around. If so, maybe, the Intern’s manager is just trying to figure out the truth.

    I have to say, I am big ‘not a fan’ of established professionals starting relationships with interns (or new entry level employees). The power difference is so huge that I don’t see how it can’t be coercive at best. (In my experience, interns are junior to and answer to everyone else. )

    No matter what the the Intern’s manager is really thinking, they are not handling this well. I were the Intern’s manager, I would be hieing myself to HR about possible sexual harassment toward the intern or against other interns. I wouldn’t be fiddly farting around with third hand investigations of posible worries that should also be turned over to HR.

    Op, something to consider: family abuse/violence spilling over into the workplace can happen in any environment, sadly no profession is immune.

    1. LadyHouseOfLove*

      I second this. I suspect that either the intern, the ex, or both, might try to start something with you and may have used this manager. I think you need to go straight to HR and talk about ways to handle all three of them.

      1. Old Admin*

        OP #1: I third this, get your side of the story and the manager’s weird behavior on HR record first, without being prompted by them!
        This could turn into a false harassment case and a firing if you do not act quickly.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This could be true, but I think OP’s level-headedness will shine through here. So far all we have for facts is that the manager is on a runaway train about this issue. There might be rumors (lies) driving the behavior but we don’t know yet.

    3. MsClaw*

      I’m curious though as to why the OP and many readers assume that when they manager said “as [intern]’s manager I have a responsibility to ensure that she has a safe working environment.” that he was talking about OP? And not about the much older man who was perusing a relationship with her?

      It seems like there must be some missing context here that made the OP assume this comment was about her. Or she’s wrong about what the manager’s concern for the intern actually is. It’s hard to know since we’re getting it third hand. If his concern *is* about OP ‘safe work environment’ could mean ‘is OP going to make it impossible for Intern to succeed here’ as opposed to ‘is OP going to stab Intern’. I definitely agree that whatever his intention calling Diane was a hamfisted way to go about it.

      1. Colette*

        I wondered whether that was what he meant, too – but even if that’s correct, the OP’s roommate is not the one to talk to about it.

        1. MsClaw*

          Oh yeah, I don’t disagree that the phone call is weird. I just think ‘does he think I’m going to knife her in the kitchenette’ is not the first conclusion I’d jump to. Then again, this is an office where there are at least three close personal relationships between the staff so the ‘vibe’ may be very different in terms of norms around calling friends about friends, etc.

      2. Snow Globe*

        MsClaw, initially that was my interpretation as well (that he was referring to the ex possibly coercing the intern into a relationship), because that is what my concern would be. But–if that is the concern, I don’t know why he would be talking to OP’s friend, with whom the OP is currently living. Why would the friend have any knowledge about the ex and intern’s relationship? And in any event, the manager should take his concerns to HR, not try to investigate on his own.

      3. Me*

        Because he didn’t contact the OP. He contacted the OP’s friend/roommate. That heavily implies the concern is in regards to the OP not the boyfriend.

      4. ecnaseener*

        From the info in the letter, it doesn’t appear Diane has any special connection or insight with the ex that would be helpful, if the reason for the call was to get a sense of whether the ex might hurt the intern in some way.

      5. Jam Today*

        If he’s concerned about the much older man pursuing his intern, he would have dealt directly with the much older man, not his ex-girlfriend’s roommate.

      6. Bagpuss*

        Because there is no reason to involve Diane (or indeed OP) if that’s the case. That would be a matter for HR to deal with with the Intern and OPs ex. The only way it would make sense would be if Dianne was ex’s line manager, which I assume he isn’t as the letter doesn’t mention it.

        It makes no sense to involve Diane at all unless she is being contacted as OPs friend / landlady

      7. BadWolf*

        I went to the same place — that the manager was worried about the intern and trying to suss out if there’s an issue with Ex (in terms of coercion, not general stupidness). Not saying this was a good way to go about it.

      8. quill*

        Because manager was addressing it to the OP, and went on to speak about the OP, to OP’s current roommate, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that they were thinking about “hey, nobody’s gonna gossip / cry about this / yell at intern in the breakroom like a stereotypical sitcom confrontation, right?” rather than thinking about the potentially coercive nature of an intern’s sexual relationship with a senior employee.

      9. Observer*

        I’m curious though as to why the OP and many readers assume that when they manager said “as [intern]’s manager I have a responsibility to ensure that she has a safe working environment.” that he was talking about OP? And not about the much older man who was perusing a relationship with her?

        Because that’s an INCREDIBLY unlikely scenario? If the manager is worried about Ex’s behavior, why would he be contacting the OP? What would she be expected to do about this? But at least there is SOME connection, so if you squint just right you can see how someone MIGHT come to the totally wrong headed conclusion that the OP might have something to contribute to the situation. But now we’ve gone from the OP to the OP’s ROOMMATE. There is just no way, no matter how much you squint and how much you twist, to conclude that that’s someone who can have anything to add if it’s the Ex whose behavior is in question.

    4. Not Australian*

      “Either the Ex &/or the Intern has been painting you as irrational, hysterical, and possibly dangerous in an effort to deflect the judgment about the sneaking around.”

      Exactly my interpretation of the situation; sounds like someone ‘getting their revenge in first’.

    5. I'm no fun*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to embark on romances at work under any circumstances. There are so many other ways to date: Online, through friends, bars, church, exercise classes, volunteer situations etc. etc. It makes sense to make work a no-go zone when it comes to sex & love.

    6. Beth*

      “Deflect the judgment about the sneaking around”, or deflect the VERY serious issue of the power imbalance between the very young female intern and the much older senior employee? The ex-boyfriend should be the one facing the hard conversation with HR and the intern’s manager, possibly along the lines of “We haven’t decided yet whether to contact previous interns and ask them about sexual harassment, but we have decided that you’re going to be perp-walked out of the building now.”

    7. Lora*

      Seconded. I have never known any person who cheated but then told everyone “hey my ex who I cheated on is really a wonderful person, I am a giant a-hole though.” Hypothetically they may exist in an infinite universe, but they are vastly outnumbered by the “okay, fine, I did cheat, but ex totally deserved it for being an evil nasty swamp monster, and besides Affair Partner and I are IN LOOOOOOOVE”. My money is on them painting OP as the evil old hag who deserves to die alone with her cats while they get to Happily Ever After.

      1. quill*

        I have seen ONE person irl go “yeah I was a shithole,” about previously cheating on an ex but it took some character growth before that happened!

    8. LifeBeforeCorona*

      It takes a lot of ovaries to have a months-long affair with someone when you also know their partner and then cry because you think that you’re getting some side-eye from that person.

  15. jesicka309*

    OP #2 – depending on how old their baby is, the amount of time pumping should decrease dramatically to be nothing by the time their baby is one.
    I went back to pumping with baby #1 when he was 7 months old.
    At 7 months, I was pumping at 10 & 2 for 20-30 minutes each time (decreasing time over weeks as my supply adjusted to the pump schedule)
    At 9 months, I was pumping at 2 for 30-40 minutes (decreasing time over weeks as my supply adjusted to the pump schedule)
    By 11 months, he was not feeding at all during the day, so was feeding in the morning before I went to work and again after dinner. Aka no one I worked with would know I was still nursing unless we had adjusted schedules for some reason (eg. a late event/meeting that went past dinner). In Australia, most mums take a year off if they can, so for my second baby where I took a full mat leave, I didn’t have to pump at work at all.

    Sure, you’re losing those hours now, but in the long term, you gain a great employee who will most definitely be able to work a full schedule. Being a pumping mother is such a short part of her life – working for you might not be.

  16. Surprised*

    OP2, you need to build a bridge and get over it. Especially as it sounds like your employee is still working during much of this time. If you leave it alone, you will likely have a very loyal, happy and productive team member for years to come. Your other option is to let her work from home, if it’s possible.

    Op4, I know exactly how you feel. It is one of the many reasons why I absolutely loathe reference checks as a recruitment tool. (They’re utterly useless, for one, and bad managers and employers abuse it. Awful.) Your husband is the most appropriate reference and there is no such thing as an objective referee. Do you have an industry contact you could perhaps use as a reference besides your husband? They don’t have to have managed you directly.

  17. Woah*

    Whenever people are shocked at the amount of time nursing takes, I like to compare it to food prep. How much time a day do you spend preparing and cooking food? Its pretty reasonable when you consider that!

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      The whole question reminded me of one of my favorite lines that I came across while I was breastfeeding: “when people say that breast-feeding is ‘free,’ I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing.”

      I’m not knocking breastfeeding, but it’s a valuable thing to remember — the time/effort cost of breastfeeding is significant for most people, to the point that it’s basically impossible if you don’t have external support.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Totally and 100% YES. ”Free” is… not really free.

        It’s a wonderful thing and a great start to a baby’s life, no question. It’s great whether one can manage it for a few weeks or a year or more, but nothing is free and time has value.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        A woman’s time, and all the extra calories she has to consume in order to keep it up! Definitely anything but free.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          all the extra calories she has to consume

          YES. It’s pedantic, but whenever I hear someone say that breastfeeding sheds off the pregancy weight gain I want to jump in and point out that “burns calories” isn’t the same as “causes weight loss”. Maybe I was burning more calories, but I was also FAMISHED.

      3. HBJ*

        I’m a mother who has breastfed multiple children, pumped and used formula.

        I say breastfeeding is free all the time. Time has to be spent to feed the baby, period. That’s a theoretical set cost. (And feeding a bottle, in my experience, takes LONGER than breastfeeding when you factor in cleaning time and bottle prep and all that.) Breastfeeding being free simply means I’m not paying more money for bottles, formula, pumps, cold packs, storage bags, etc.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          It sounds like you’ve had a wonderful experience with breastfeeding, which is great, but I don’t think you’ve changed my mind.

          For one: a set cost is still a cost, and I don’t see the value in language that suggests otherwise.

          For another: while you may have not needed it, many women do require pumps and bottles and milk storage to facilate breastfeeding, which all cost money. Additionally, for many women the loss of their paid labour is more expensive than formula, so from an economic standpoint, breastfeeding might be a loss.

          To my knowledge there remains a well-documented correlation between wealth and breastfeeding, largely due to the fact that breastfeeding is only available to women who can afford to take the time to do it. So not only a cost, but a prohibitive cost. If we want breastfeeding to be accessible to all, I think we must start by acknowledging that.

        2. Artemesia*

          When I got occasionally gigged by people about ‘all the time it takes you to breastfeed’ I just said. ‘Oh, I do it because I am lazy — no prep, no clean up, always ready and the right temperature.’ And then I got snowed in for an entire day at O’Hare with a 7 mos old baby — no chairs left, no food left, place crowded with people camped out everywhere and kids whining. And I was a self sufficient unit — just had to drink water and feed the baby and eat a couple granola bars in my bag all while sitting on the floor against a wall.

      4. Alexis Rosay*

        Thank you! One of the reasons I love my husband is that he actively pushes back against his friends who tell him that I should be breastfeeding because “formula is expensive”. He says, “My wife’s time and happiness are also valuable.”

        I’m all for empowering those who want to breastfeed, including pumping at work. But ‘free’ is not the reason.

      5. Perfectly Particular*

        But the baby has to be fed regardless… so somebody’s time is always being used. It’s just a matter of whether it is all mom and no cost for formula, or mom + support system + cost of formula. This is the same calculation we make for deciding whether to hire a housekeeper, lawn service, etc.

        Also, as a mom who pumped before there were protections in the US, 90 minutes a day seems like a lot to me. I pumped at the office before logging in, and then during lunch… this kept me on my every 4 hour feeding schedule and I didn’t have to explain to my boss where I was going… we did have 60 minute lunches though, so there was time to eat and pump as long as I packed my lunch. I understand the employers concern, but completely agree that this cannot be up for discussion until the 1 year that they agreed on is up.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Uh, maybe I’m just lazy but I don’t usually spend anywhere near 90 minutes a day on food prep lol! Most days it’s probably more like 30.

      (I say this not just to be obnoxious but to let you know that the comparison might not land correctly with everyone, especially non-foodies who are only cooking for themselves.)

      1. F.M.*

        …yeah, a day in which I spend 30 minutes TOTAL on food prep is on the high end for me. Maybe an hour if I’m making a big meal that I expect to last me as easily reheated leftovers for multiple meals that week, and the leftovers take, like, two minutes of reheating after putting them in containers.

        I am mildly sympathetic to the company going “…!” for not realizing what this promise would mean–having no experience with pumping or much with small infants or their nursing parents, I would’ve vaguely expected 20 minutes two or three times a day–but, as others point out, the promise having been made, and the promise having a time limit on how long it needs to be held up just by nature of biology, well, they’ve gotta stick with it. Now they know for future reference, and can plan accordingly.

        1. Observer*

          So, firstly, the KNEW that it was going to be 3 times a day. So that should have told them right off the bat that this was going to have to be at least an hour a day, because if someone needs to pump anywhere other than their desk it’s just not physically possible to do it in less than 20 minutes a session.

          The fact that they didn’t bother to do their due diligence and find out what a normal range is is, is not the employees fault.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Cows take 5 minutes, twice a day, so I don’t know that expecting someone with no prior knowledge to guess 30 minutes per session is reasonable.

      Of course, cows have somebody else to do the washing up.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

        See, and I have absolutely no idea how long milking a cow takes (is that common knowledge???), but have had enough friends who pump or nurse exclusively to know that both pumping and nursing often take at least half an hour, depending on milk production. I don’t expect everyone to know that, but I’m definitely surprised by the idea that the knowledge of a cow’s milking time would be commonly know and compared to pumping breast milk.

        1. Shenandoah*

          See, I would have thought it would be common knowledge to know how long your bovine cousin would take, Musk-Ox! ;)

          (In all seriousness, even if a cow’s milking time was commonly known, I’m also surprised and a little dismayed that it would/could be used as a baseline for human pumping.)

          1. quill*

            Also I don’t encourage anyone hooking themselves up to an industrial cow-suction machine… Which is, I expect, a major part of the reason it takes 5 minutes.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes, my understanding is that hand milking a cow takes longer although I don’t know this from personal experience. I went on a farm tour once and they said hand milking their goat took about 20 minutes but could be longer depending on whether she was in a good mood or not (often not).

              Most people don’t hang around cows a lot unless they work in agriculture or in the dairy business so would not know the timings and I don’t think how long a cow takes to be milked is any form of proxy for how long it takes a person to express milk.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Okay, but wouldn’t it be better to actually research it rather than making the promise and then wanting to renege on that promise because it’s longer than you thought?

        1. nothing rhymes with purple*

          Not when we can hold human women to the same standard as cows and then penalize them for it!

      3. Klio*

        Cows also have more outlets and are typically expressed by an automaton on all outlets at the same time.

      4. quill*

        Also we bred cows to do that. A baby animal nursing from any other mammal isn’t going to consume the whole firehose of milk in 5-15 minutes twice a day.

        I don’t think expecting OP to know how long it takes to milk a cow and base their judgement off that is necessarily more reasonable than expecting them to google “average time to pump milk during breastfeeding.”

        1. Woah*

          That was my main reaction to that comment- we literally breed farm animals to do the jobs we maintain them for most efficiently and have a lot of very expensive equipment to support that.

      5. Observer*

        Cows take 5 minutes, twice a day, so I don’t know that expecting someone with no prior knowledge to guess 30 minutes per session is reasonable.

        Is this serious? Or did you forget the /sarc tag?

        Because if you are serious, it’s gross, ignorant and makes a lot of invalid assumptions.

        Women as not “cows” whose ability to provide maximum amount of milk for the longest amount of time is their primary purpose. Equating the two just makes no sense, aside from the grossness.

        Also, unless the employer is a dairy farm, the idea that anyone actually knows how long cows are generally milked for is pretty weird.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        Wowwwwwww there’s a lot of major bummer comments in this thread which was expected, but I gotta say I was not expecting to find someone comparing a nursing mother to literal cows.

  18. MarkA*

    #2 For someone in the UK, the focus on billable hours is strange.
    But then some people get calculators to split the bill, and go through it line by line.
    Knowing the price of everything, and the value of nothing springs to mind.
    I’m see the employer is family friendly, is the OP trying to build a case? On company time? I wish the employer could filter out basically jealous people.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Depends on the industry, though- it’s completely normal, at least here in NZ, for companies where revenue is directly generated by time spent on client work – I’m thinking professions like lawyers and accountants, who bill in 6-minute increments. There are bound to be others.

      If it’s something like that, I can definitely see how they might be shocked by the pumping time (but which, in my experience, is completely normal). I see what you’re saying, but I think it’s just a case of them getting a bit of sticker shock.

      That said, there’s obviously huge intrinsic value in being a truly family-friendly workplace, which goes far beyond profit, and I believe it’s downright immoral to expect parents to stop or curtail their breastfeeding in the name of company revenue.

      1. Sc@rlettNZ*

        Yes, this is perfectly normal when it is then going to be on-billed to a client. I’m in NZ as well, and used to work for a civil engineering firm. We had to account for our time in 15 minute increments (we were able to code to a non-billing account code as well).

    2. Emma Dilemma*

      Billable hours are a totally normal thing in some professions, like law and for people who work in agencies (eg design).

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

      I’m also in the UK and it’s standard in some industries to focus on billable hours or at least “time spent on projects Vs time spent on overhead that can’t be allocated to a project”. Law, consultancy, software, etc. It doesn’t seem like a strange thing to focus on as generally the company generates revenue from billable activity (obviously) so they want to maximise it!

      Generally time spent in the course of a project/client e.g. 5 minutes to get a cup of coffee gets recorded in with the general time spent on that project.

      We have billable hours in my place and submitting 90 minutes a day of “general overhead” would get questioned very quickly if not previously agreed (I realise that was already agreed in the lw’s case).

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m in the UK and in law so I’m used to categorizing the workday in six-minute increments. Typical for my field for a full-time attorney would be twenty billable hours per week, with the rest including training, admin and so on.

        I’ve worked at firms who were only interested in recording the billable hours (0.6 hours reading the report on project A113; 1.3 hours drafting the argument on B52) and at firms who wanted to drill down into tiny detail for every hour (distinguishing between training self, training junior, training trainee, preparing training materials, etc) where the “general overhead” category was nearly never used.

        1. Tara*

          My lawyer girlfriend found ex-accountant me billing my time in vague half hour increments so infuriating precisely because of this six minute rule, haha.

        2. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “Typical for my field for a full-time attorney would be twenty billable hours per week, with the rest including training, admin and so on.”

          Ooh, luxury! In U.S., it’s not uncommon for the big law firms to have targets of 2,000 billable hours (or even more, for the best bonuses). That’s basically 8 billable hours per day. Add on admin time, training, going to the bathroom—well, the actual number of hours a lawyer has to work to meet that target is insane. Twenty hours per week would be much more reasonable.

          That kind of billable hours target isn’t terribly friendly to maternity needs, either. Nursing 90 minutes per day for a year is something like 375 hours of non-billable time, which would make it even harder to meet billable hours requirements. I wonder if LW2’s firm adjusted the mother’s billable hours requirement, or if they just expected her to “make up” the time, even if it’s technically paid.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Uff, that’s offensively demanding.

            It explains why we once got an invoice from a US with an entry for a couple of hours “worrying about [case] in the middle of the night”. We queried the invoice and it was reversed, but “billable” is not the same as “billed” and sometimes I guess you do what’s required for the timesheet.

          2. Bagpuss*

            I guess it depends on the field – I’m also in the UK and in law and we would definitely expect more than 20 hours a week (although not as much as 8 hours a day of billable time) . I think 30 hours a week for someone who is a ful time fee earner would be more usual, although everywhere I’ve worked targets have been based on actual fees billed and paid, not on hours.

    4. Ferret*

      This is 100% a normal thing in many companies in the UK. The variation is much more linked to industry than country. Having worked in both engineering and consultancy, in each there is a focus on billable hours and what could be charged to the client vs what had to go to overhead. Not in quite as much detail or to the same degree as lawyers (the classic example) but it really isn’t unusual as a concern.

      Having said that I still think OP is misguided and needs to park their concern, but assuming that they must be ‘basically jealous’ is wildly unkind.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Depends on the industry. I work in law in the UK and billable hours is totally normal.

      we do focus on annual billing targets but they are calculated with reference to how many billable hours it’s reasonable for someone to record.

      We record in 6 minute ‘units’

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was working at a university when news broke of one department getting audited to see if they were charging ‘overhead’ to a government grant. The costs for a project planning meeting were questioned in detail. I could see the grant reacting the same way to pumping time.

    7. ecnaseener*

      “But then some people get calculators to split the bill, and go through it line by line” comes off awfully judgmental! What’s so terrible about only wanting to pay for the items you chose to order with your budget in mind?

  19. cncx*

    for LW1 i wonder if it isn’t the ex trying to preemptively say that LW is “crazy” and the intern’s boss fell for it and that’s why the manager was calling to make sure that LW “wouldn’t do anything.” it’s a set-up, and I think LW absolutely needs to go to her boss and HR if only to CYA over this.

    Also, employees dating each other is one thing, employees dating interns is a whole other can of worms in terms of power dynamics. If i were HR in that company, i would be concerned about possible harassment allegations down the road.

  20. Charlie*

    OP1, this whole situation is understandably upsetting, and the phone call to your friend sounds really inappropriate. I wonder if your ex has said something to make you sound bad. The manager might have found out you were taking a week off but not realise it was pre-planned, and this has somehow stoked up his fears that you were somehow unstable.

    However it sounds like the intern’s manager is concerned about her safety, but didn’t specifically mention you as being the threat. Maybe his concern is the boyfriend. I think I would loop my own manager in, but also email intern’s manager with some reassurances that ex-boyfriend has never exhibited any violence and has given you no reason to suspect he poses any danger to intern.

    1. Anthony J Crowley*

      Yeah I thought they were seeing the boyfriend as the threat too. Makes much more sense to me.

      1. AutolycusinExile*

        I had that thought, too – is there any chance there’s a game of telephone going on, where what the manager really was trying to ask was whether OP is safe herself? It sounds like there are 4-5 people ‘playing’ at this point (ex > intern > intern’s manager > OP’s friend > OP) so I’m sure there’s a crapload of triangulation and drama escalating through the grapevine. Not sure it changes the advice much, though – either way I’d be taking the situation to HR, asking (telling) them to make sure everything is handled professionally, and washing my hands of the mess as soon as the trauma of the situation would possibly let me. Wishing you well, OP, I hope you’re taking care of yourself. Everything about this situation sucks :(

      2. Virginia Plain*

        But if the manager thinks it’s the ex who may be making things unsafe, why is he contacting LW’s friend, and not the ex/ex’s friend/ex’s manager? What does he want LW to do, control her ex, provide reassurances? That would be nonsense. How ex behaves is no longer LW’s problem to address.

      3. Myrin*

        On the contrary – it makes no sense at all.
        What does Diana, OP’s work friend and temporary roommate, have to do with potentially threatening behaviour exhibited by OP’s ex?

      4. Anthony J Crowley*

        The way I read it they were contacting her as a witness/for background. But it’s hard to know whether that could actually be the case without OP1 giving us more info.

        1. Observer*

          Then why would not just tell Diana “Please pass on a message to OP that I would like to speak to her when she gets back? I would like some information about Ex, if she’s willing to talk?”

    2. Forrest*

      >>email intern’s manager with some reassurances that ex-boyfriend has never exhibited any violence and has given you no reason to suspect he poses any danger to intern

      I think this is very much not LW’s concern or responsibility!

      1. Mary Connell*

        Yes, best to stay out of the ex’s relationships altogether. All sorts of ways that could play out badly.

    3. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

      Counterpoint: Even if LW had taken the week off spontaneously upon discovering that her ex not only had an affair and left her for the other woman, who shares a work place, but that the affair has power dynamic that is questionable at best, this is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the situation and no one should read her taking the time off as evidence that she’s a risk to anyone. Like, I may be quibbling with something small here, but as soon as the news of what happened came to light, no one should bat an eye if she decided she was taking all of her vacation time that very day.

      1. Jam Today*

        Seconded. It seems pretty reasonable that someone would peace out for a few days after their partner of several *years* decided to f- a college student instead.

        1. quill*

          Also, personally, that would be a relief: the wronged party is out of the building, I can do logistics now and comfort later!

    4. Observer*

      but also email intern’s manager with some reassurances that ex-boyfriend has never exhibited any violence and has given you no reason to suspect he poses any danger to intern.

      Do NOT do this. Do NOT feed the crazy. Even if the Manager had explicitly said that they were trying to find out from the OP if Ex poses a threat to Intern – which he did NOT – the OP should not do this. It is absolutely not the OP’s job to manage the fallout Ex. She should take a single second to try to protect him from whatever happens. And she also should stay well out of any drama that ensues.

      And that assumes that what you are suggesting is likely. It is totally NOT likely. There is no good reason that the manager should contact the OP about how much of a danger Ex might be to the intern. Talking to the OP’s room-mate is CLEARLY not about that.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, even if explicitly asked, OP reeeeeeaally doesn’t want to be on company record vouching for her ex…OP cannot possibly know for sure that the intern is safe (clearly she didn’t know the ex as well as she thought!)

  21. Anthony J Crowley*

    OP1: Is it possible that they’re contacting OP and her friend as a witness and just didn’t put that across well? If I was contacted in that situation i would 100% assume that the manager had concerns that the intern had been pressured into the relationship and thought maybe I had evidence of that. I would certainly say that if I was contacted again and maybe might even make that assumption explicit when contacting HR.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      IF that were the case, I would expect to be contacted by HR and make statements that were on their records. Since the manager did it himself, I tend to think that the manager is a bit of a drama monger.

  22. Elle by the sea*

    For most of the jobs I have worked in, I had to do a 1.5 hour commute each way (adding up to 3 hours daily). I was fine with it (and on many occasions even enjoyed it) and didn’t get burnt out at all. My view is that employers should trust the candidate’s judgement. If the candidate has done a long commute successfully in the past and tells them confidently that they can handle it, there is no need to obsess over this any further.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I think it does depend on the worker’s experience – if you’ve done it and you’re fine, they should trust that, but if you’re moving from, say, a 45 minute commute to an hour, you can easily under-estimate what that extra fifteen minutes will do to your day. It’s also the method of commute – I’ll cheerfully walk an hour to work, but I couldn’t do that in a bus or a car. It does sound like there#s some projection going on here, like either the interviewers have burned out in the past on an hour’s commute, or they’ve lost staff who thought they could manage it and couldn’t.

      1. Forrest*

        It sounds immensely like the, “we lost a previous member of staff to this and we’re over-focussed on it” problem to me.

  23. Anothermom*

    I have been reading this site for years and almost always agree with Alison’s perspective. However, maybe because I’m a new nursing mom, I was actually offended by her answer to OP2. It sounds like you were suggesting that next time someone asks for this to be aware for next time, instead of stating the legal requirements in the US for pumping. I’m not sure if someone with billable hours would always be exempt, but if they were non-exempt they would be legally required to accommodate this. My understanding is that if other employees get paid breaks, then pumping time has to be paid as well.

    OP2 if it was ok for a long term employee, then you shouldn’t shine the spotlight on the new mom. You can’t call your employer family friendly if this is going to be a problem and all it takes is one Glassdoor review about this to make sure that you don’t get resumes from working moms.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They are legally required to give her time to pump, but they are not legally required to pay for it (as they are doing in this case); the law allows the time to be unpaid. (It’s unlikely that other employees are getting three paid 30-minute breaks per day, or that the OP would be writing in with this concern if they were.)

      1. Bon voyage*

        How does this work for exempt employees–can an employer require a pumping person to make up the time, or is that against the spirit of being exempt?

        1. Clisby*

          I don’t know how this is different from an unpaid lunch break. I’m retired now, but at my last (exempt) job we were required to take a lunch break, which could be anywhere between 30 minutes and 90 minutes. We were expected to work 8 hours a day outside of lunch. Since we were exempt, sure, some days someone might work only 7 hours and another day might work 9 hours – but it was definitely not – your expected time each day is 8 hours minus a 90-minute lunch break.

    2. Panny Fack*

      If you’ve never owned or run a business, or never had managerial responsibility for one or more people, it’s easy to look at the situation this way. But it’s affecting the company, and the work that’s produced, so OP is wise to consider how this affects his employees in the future and what can be changed to make the situation better for the company.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      For non-exempt employees (according to federal law, may vary by state), if the break is less than 20 minutes, then it must be paid. Longer breaks do not need to be paid unless it is an exception granted by the employer.

    4. Observer*

      nstead of stating the legal requirements in the US for pumping

      Except that there are no legal requirements at play here.

      When the law was first passed, non-exempt employees were not covered. And exempt employees had to be given the time, but they do NOT have to be paid for it. If someone chooses to use their lunch hour or other standard paid breaks for this, then sure that has to be paid. But if the employer provides paid breaks, and the employee is pumping in ADDITION to taking those breaks the employer does NOT have to pay for the additional time.

  24. Forrest*

    Huh, I read LW1’s letter the other way around– I thought the manager was doing, “this environment is unsafe for my intern because some creep is sexually harassing her, I wonder if I can get the creep’s ex-girlfriend to deal with him”. A world of terrible in the OTHER direction! It didn’t occur to me that the intern’s manager would be Team Intern And Her Affair Partner and treating LW1 as a threat.

    LW1, are you committed to staying at this company? By all means speak to your manager and get them to shut this down, but frankly it sounds like a hive of bees and I’d be seeking other opportunities if I were you.

    1. Mary Connell*

      One manager acting weirdly doesn’t sound like sufficient reason to leave a company that the letter writer describes as otherwise professional.

      1. Forrest*

        I was thinking of one manager behaving awfully + it’s where your ex works + it’s where your ex’s new girlfriend works + the organisation seems pretty relaxed about mid-career people having affairs with the interns. That would be enough to make me start looking!

    2. Virginia Plain*

      I just don’t see how it’s up to OP to police the behaviour of an ex? The ex left her, for the intern – why should the professional fallout come anywhere near LW to deal?

    3. LW1*

      Letter writer 1 here – this isn’t an interpretation that occurred to me before although I suppose it’s possible he was sniffing for info about my ex and not me. If that was in fact the sentiment behind the phone call then I would find it less offensive but more ridiculous than my original interpretation, and just as much of an overstep – I don’t know this manager well and I suppose it’s possible that he thought Diana could offer some insight about my ex that would be valuable to him in fulfilling his responsibilities as the intern’s manager, but it’s hard to see how he missed how invasive that would be.
      This is unfortunately my dream job and I’m heavily invested in it to the point where leaving would probably lead to me just scrapping my whole life and moving back to the country I grew up in to start over there. That’s not to say I haven’t thought about it a lot – with the notable exceptions of the ex, the intern, and now her manager, everyone at work has been wonderful and supportive, but I still have a lot of anxiety and negative feelings towards my workplace that I didn’t have before. The option is certainly on the table depending on how this plays out, it’s just not a decision I can make lightly unfortunately. If it was just a job to me I absolutely would have begun job hunting immediately, for all the reasons you mention in your second comment.

      1. Forrest*

        I’m so sorry. This sounds like a total nightmare and I hope you get through it and thrive.

      2. AY*

        Just jumping in to say that I’m so sorry you have ended up in such a crappy situation that’s not of your making. I hope you have lots of support around you and that you feel at peace with whatever you decide to do about staying or leaving your job.

      3. anonymath*

        I just want to cheer for you, LW1, and say “courage!” You’re in an unpleasant situation not of your making. Stay professional at work, make sure to appropriately use your network inside of work, reach out to personal support networks outside of work. You have a very high chance of coming out of this more respected at work than ever. Your ex does not. Take the high road but also be very aware of attempts to sabotage you. An ex who’ll cheat on you with an intern and then go public with that relationship while she’s still an intern does not show good judgement. An intern who’ll get involved with this also doesn’t show great judgement (I’m very aware of the power differential here, though). Develop a script to use with people at work: “Of course it’s a really sh*(&y thing to have happen, but I’m committed to being professional here at work.” “Of course I can’t believe it happened, but I don’t want to let this derail the career I’ve worked so hard for.” “Of course this is terrible and really uncomfortable, but I’m far better off finding out how unethical this man is now. I feel really sorry for that young woman.”

      4. WentThroughSomethingSimilarToLW1*

        Oh, that’s so hard that you are not in your home country (and presumably far away from some of your support network). I’m glad your workplace people are being supportive. I was also not in my home country (I was living in my ex’s home country/hometown). I wondered about moving back to my country and starting over there but decided to wait a while to decide since staying put is what felt right to me. Eventually, I decided that my initial instinct not to leave was what I wanted to follow, and I’m still here eight years later. I did have to rebuild, but I had a good support network and enjoyed my job. Good luck as you navigate this and make decisions.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Slide over, OP, I think I can sit and do some of the crying for you… gosh this just feels so awful. And you, OP, are so level-headed and it seems like you have level-headed friends. This is a huge asset in your favor.

        I hope I can encourage you to ride this out. You have done NOTHING wrong here. Notice the big letters- NOTHING.
        Going home, while not optimal, is an alternative. This means you are not totally painted into a corner here. You can do something if this just tanks even lower than what it is now. Sometimes knowing there is an escape hatch is enough to help us stay put and try for a little bit longer.
        There’s no doubt in my mind that you have anxiety and negative feelings for your workplace. I think that is pretty normal given the situation. It might taper off, especially as you watch people continue to be supportive of you and as you talk to HR/boss/etc. Ramp up on the self-care, something like short walks (if possible) after dinner can help dissipate excess energy and help to keep the thinking clear. Maybe you can find a walking buddy in your neighborhood. But there’s lots of other options under the heading of “self-care”.

        I am sorry you are going through this. I think you are handling it with a lot of class. I hope you let Alison know how you are doing so she can share with us.

  25. Mimsie*

    I find the pumping question so disheartening. It’s crazy how little people know or understand about how babies are fed.

    90 minutes over THREE pumping sessions is so normal, fast even. Especially factoring in set up, storage and cleaning. You’re lucky this is her second, it could be taking longer with her first if she’s not used to it, stressed about the situation, not experienced enough to “time” the pumping session at the optimal moment. Think about it. She needs to be full enough to pump efficiently (or else she needs to take longer or try again later) but not so overly full she is in pain or ends up with an embarrassing leak situation.

    This is just another example of how women are shamed for feeding their baby. Insane if you think about it.

    1. Panny Fack*

      You can explain it all you want but no one is accusing her of stretching out the time or being inefficient. OP is concerned about his company’s situation, as he/she should be. The shame you’re feeling is coming from inside you – the letter-writer’s question has nothing to do with it.

      1. nothing rhymes with purple*

        The shame you’re feeling is coming from inside you – the letter-writer’s question has nothing to do with it.

        That is viciously inaccurate in a society which constantly judges women and judges mothers twice as harshly.

        Don’t take my word for it: take rl09’s eloquent comment below. Or RJ’s, which is from the perspective of someone doing the math for the business who still points out that it’s unnecessary to be punitive to working mothers.

    2. TimeTravlR*

      You are so right. I am just so thankful that at more and more companies they are providing comfortable places to pump. It’s a far cry from what I had but we definitely have a ways to go on this apparently.

    3. Cat Lover*

      To be fair, LW isn’t suggesting she stop pumping. They are paying for pumping breaks, something many employers do NOT do.

    4. Susie Q*

      The company doesn’t want her to stop pumping, they want to stop paying for pumping breaks which is not required under the law. I worked through all my pumping breaks with my first.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I’m glad that worked for you. Every person is different, so working through pumping breaks may not work for everyone depending on their bodies, their job, etc.

        But that’s moot — the company made a promise, one no one forced them to make, in order to attract a candidate they wanted without doing enough due diligence. It’s unfortunate for them in that they are only now realizing the scope of it. But if they had offered her a signing bonus to sweeten the deal and then tried to claw it back, would you also tell her she should give it back b/c you didn’t get a signing bonus?

    5. Not Alison*

      Noone is “shaming” the mother. They are just saying that she is being producing 90 minutes less work for the same pay as other employees and that is what is problematic. If she is exempt, what about working overtime to make up the difference? Or are other exempt workers having to work overtime to make up the difference of her 90 minutes short each day – – – which then makes the work differential even more than the 90 minutes.

      1. onco fonco*

        The company decided to offer pay for that time. That was their choice, the mother didn’t force them into it. It’s likely she can’t commit to 90 minutes of overtime a day because childcare has a hard end time – and in any case, the company couldn’t reasonably U-turn and demand that after their original offer of paid pumping time. It’s not her fault they didn’t research what they were offering!

        If other employees need the same flexibility/paid breaks, they can make a case for it. But she’s not taking 90 free minutes a day to put her feet up and relax, she’s meeting a temporary physical need, just as many people may need to do for many reasons at some point during their life.

      2. Le Sigh*

        They’re not directly shaming her, but they are trying to see if they can go back on their offer because they miscalculated the cost/time — which would leave the employee holding the bag. Imagine if a company offered a bonus but realized too late that it was more than they wanted to or could spend, and asked for some of it back? We’d tell that employee not to trust the employer and maybe look for another job.

        Sure, it’s not direct shaming, but working parents, especially moms, face a lot of direct or implicit pressure trying to juggle both. I think a lot of companies say they’re pro-family but don’t always really think about what that means or are willing to absorb those trade-offs — and when the rubber hits the road, they’re not really willing to make the real trade-offs, or they make the tiniest of concessions and then tout their family friendliness in all the public-facing communications.

        But being “pro-family” sometimes means taking a short-term cost (e.g., fewer billable hours) in order to retain a good employee. Because that’s the other thing — this is a short-term problem. As others have pointed out, the need to pump will probably start to decrease in the coming weeks and months, but if they go back on their commitment now — to what, save 2-4 working days over the course of a year, if that? — the employee (and maybe her coworkers) will *never* forget that.

      3. nothing rhymes with purple*

        Making a new mother work unpaid overtime while reneging on a previous agreement is hardly ‘family friendly’. And if other employees had to cover her work I think LW #2 would have mentioned, considering she mentioned a previous nursing employee.

      4. Amtelope*

        Well, sick employees produce less work than healthy employees. Should we make all sick time unpaid, or require people to work overtime to make up for being sick? Employees who are in labor produce less work than employees who aren’t in labor. Should we require them to make up for the time when they’re in labor?

        Family friendly policies mean providing PAID time off to workers when they are pumping milk, on maternity leave, experiencing illness, or caring for sick family members. Doing the bare minimum that US laws allow is not ethically supporting workers to care for themselves and their families.

    6. onco fonco*

      I find this frustrating too – not that people don’t automatically know, but that they never seem to think to learn about it when it’s something that a significant chunk of the population will do at some point. That it’s seen as purely the concern of nursing mothers, but when nursing people ask for what they need or do what’s necessary, they get met with surprise and all too often criticism. (But then I found that across the board as a new mother – people with no experience assuming that I was wrong/deluded/entitled about what bringing up a tiny helpless human entailed, rather than that since I’d just been on the steepest learning curve of my life, I was more familiar with it all than they were. I don’t think LW is doing that, fwiw, but really – someone at the company could have Googled pumping and how long it takes before deciding what they could offer a nursing employee!)

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, after all Alison didn’t know but asked and found correct information.

      2. Batgirl*

        I love it when people say to new parents: “it can’t be that hard/time intensive/seep deprived…what do other people do??” …as though they’d never thought to ask! Teachers get this too. As though children are just small adults, with smaller needs if anything. Raising humans is a time expensive endeavor.

        1. onco fonco*

          Yes! It’s the automatic dismissal. You can’t possibly need *that*. It can’t possibly be *that* hard. Culturally we’re still so unused to actually seeing the labour of childcare, as opposed to women doing it all out of sight while professionals get on with the Real Important Stuff, that I think we don’t want to believe it exists. We like the idea of helping those women into the workplace, sure, but we still expect the impact to happen somewhere else. Keep up with the professional norms set generations ago by men with wives at home or GTFO.

      3. HelenofWhat*

        I ended up looking up the law in my state (NY) and there are explicit definitions of what’s “reasonable” unpaid break time for nursing, and it’s a minimum of 20 mins assuming that the designated room is nearby, 30 minimum if it’s not. They could have easily researched what is usually required for unpaid time to calculate what that would add up to in paid hours.

  26. UKgreen*

    I think LW3’s interviews share the view of many people that an hour commute is ‘a long time’, but it very much depends on how you see that time.

    I no longer commute, as I’m fully remote, but when it did it was by public transport for about about hour each way. I read books. I listened to music. It wasn’t usually a period of stress, but rather a period of relaxation (unless the bus was late, of course…)

    1. NYWeasel*

      Yes, 75 minutes each way via train was far more relaxing than 35 minutes driving is, because I could use the time for whatever I want—reading, paying bills, playing games, or just sleeping if I was still tired.

  27. TimeTravlR*

    LW 3 – but now I really really want to hear about the red flags of the other interviewer!

    1. OP3*

      I’ll give you the non-identifying ones – the first and biggest being the “we’re a family here” line, which always lands to me as “work-life balance means nothing to us because work IS life” and makes me run for the hills. There was also “we all wear many hats”, which tells me “we either can’t or won’t hire actually adequate staff, so we overwork the staff we really do hire and don’t pay enough for it”. That second one isn’t always intentionally malicious, but I’ve worked places that were constantly understaffed, and it was always a nightmare, whether maliciously done or not. The next one is a bit smaller, but takes on a different context with the rest of it – “we have some lazy employees and some good employees”, which is true of all workplaces, but in concert with everything else I’ve listed here, could potentially mean “we have some people who like to go home at night, and some people who are happy to stay and work till midnight”. It could also be benign, but it doesn’t give me hope for success, because I like to go home on time! The rest involved the daily operations of the business, and could be identifying, so I won’t go into those, but even just what I put here would have me running for the hills!

      1. EPLawyer*

        Ugh yeah. I also understand the commute thing too. It’s one thing to do the hour long commute after an 8 hour day. but if you worked 10 hours and still have to drive an hour home AND get up the next day and do the same thing, you start dreading it.

        Thankfully you recognized the red flags and didn’t plow forward in the hopes it would all work out okay.

      2. LadyByTheLake*

        Oooo, yeah. Those sound like red flags, and actually makes the concern about the commute more understandable in context. If you are working 8:30-5, a long commute might not be that big a deal. But if you are working 7am to 9pm, a long commute is going to be unworkable.

        1. OP3*

          I am in the unfortunate position of having enough experience with long days in my current position that it’s not actually that unworkable, sadly! During the busy season, I can show up at the office at 8am and not leave until 10pm, at which point the commute is still on the longer side. I’ve even had a position where I was working around 7am-9pm daily for weeks with this same 40 minute to 2 hour commute, without issue. A consistent one-hour commute would have been a blessing in those days.

      3. TimeTravlR*

        Thanks for responding! I can see why you aren’t interested. Definitely concerns from both interviewers.

      4. quill*

        That’s several more red flags than my worst job so far, so… congrats on your speed in running for the hills!

      5. Fabulous*

        Ooooh I don’t know that I would have caught those flags! Good work at avoiding this place; it sounds like a potential nightmare!

      6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Combine the “we are family” and all the other issues, and it sounds like they might be concerned about the commute because they expect you to be leaving really late every night or be able to drop anything you are doing in your personal life any time they want you to come in and deal with something, even outside of business hours. Glad you noped outa that!

  28. Mannheim Steamroller*

    LW #3…

    When you decline the position, make sure to mention that the potential commute WOULD NOT have been an issue at all, but their obsession over it WAS a definite red flag. Maybe they’ll learn a lesson from that.

    (BTW, what were the other red flags?)

    1. OP3*

      I wrote out the non-identifying red flags in response to TimeTravlR’s comment just above yours! There were more that had to do with day-to-day operations on top of those, and it’s just a lot of “nope”.

    1. lost academic*

      Seconded. A popular myth debunked with an actual study where they actually controlled for things like maternal health and socioeconomic status.

      I learned when pregnant with my first that most of the repeated adages about pregnancy and babies exist because no one actually studied them.

    2. Forrest*

      tbh this kind of stuff turned me off breastfeeding support as someone who *did* breastfeed. I couldn’t cope with engaging with organisations who acted like breastmilk was more important than me *or* my baby.

  29. PrairieEffingDawn*

    I’m in my 14th month of exclusive pumping (currently pumping as I type this) and even as I near the end, up until very recently I was still spending 2 hours a day chained to this thing. FWIW I am usually working on my laptop when I pump during the workday, and my guess is that if LW2’s employee had an impending deadline and was able to work while pumping, she would.

    Before having a kid I had no idea how hard and time consuming lactation would be and it’s clear that a lot of people don’t know this. Even moms whose kids are older forget to some degree, I think! So LW2 I think you need to trust that you’ve done the right thing for your employee and will make up for it later by having a really happy and productive person on staff who was treated well at a time in life that can be really difficult for a lot of people.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – I wasn’t able to nurse, my kids just didn’t latch correctly so I had to pump if I didn’t want to use formula. Fortunately I had employers that were good about it (and I was a very fortunate that I could always pump very efficiently as well). Pumping (like nursing) is different for everyone. But the support you give now will reap lots of rewards later.

  30. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Interns are generally there to learn professional norms, right?

    Someone needs to clue in the intern in #1 that sleeping with married men is not okay. In fact, it’s probably wise in general to avoid romantic entanglements with coworkers.

    1. JM in England*

      Internships are generally the only “free pass” you get to learn workplace norms without major blowback….

    2. Forrest*

      This guy clearly has a track record of regarding the workplace as his personal dating pool, so “clueing the intern in” just means sending him off to find someone more vulnerable.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Maybe it’s time to ban romance between employees and keep a close eye on this guy going forward?

    3. parsley*

      I literally had this exact thought reading the line from the intern’s manager saying that it was their job “ensure that she has a safe working environment”. It was also your job to teach her appropriate workplace behaviour, which includes not getting into messy affairs with co-workers, but I guess that wasn’t on the syllabus.

      1. Forrest*

        Man, amazing how quickly people jump to explain why the person with the least power and experience in this relationship is the one who should have shut it down.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes that’s what occurred to me. Of the two of them the intern has disproportionately less power than the OP’s boyfriend. I hope she made the decision to date the BF freely rather than being pressured into it but it’s a really difficult position to be in as an intern. I think if someone wants to date an intern the ethical thing to do is to wait until the internship is over so there is neither duress nor the appearance of duress.

          In my first job one of my colleagues (mid 30s married woman) had an affair with the intern (19yr old man). I was very concerned that the intern may have felt pressurised and if I lost respect for either of them it was for her. I also got really annoyed by the amount of comments from the mostly male management about how “lucky” he was to have an older woman “educating” him.

          1. Forrest*

            also he’s on his second rodeo! Like, cool, yes, you met your long-term partner at work, that’s a thing, good for you– but then you ALSO cheated on her, ALSO at work, with an intern? I mean, if you want to teach the intern that there are professional consequences for having affairs at work, you probably should start by creating some professional consequences for the guy having multiple affairs at work. Looks like no consequences at all from here!

            1. BRR*

              Yeah if I was his manager I would have serious concerns about his professional judgement. Dating the lw is perfectly fine. But having an affair with an intern at the same office?! And speaking of questioning judgement, I’m questioning the intern’s manager’s judgement. Calling Diane wouldn’t even have been a consideration to me because it just makes no sense.

              Also shoutout to Diane for handling it perfectly.

            2. Batgirl*

              Yes he has zero judgement, is clearly a liability and hopefully someone is at least saying something to him about not making his poor judgement a factor in the intern’s sense of professional norms.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I’m old enough to remember Monica Lewinsky being made a laughingstock and nearly having her life ruined while Bill Clinton was lauded as a hero so I’m being realistic. In a perfect world, the blame would be placed where it belongs. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world.

          1. Observer*

            I’m also old enough to remember it. But that doesn’t make it at ALL ok to focus on how the INTERN’S behavior was “not ok”.

            Had you pointed out that the intern is likely to suffer disproportionately, that would have been one thing. But that’s not what you said. And I don’t think that this it nit-picking choice of words – it’s a totally different approach.

        3. LTL*


          Perhaps someone should talk to the intern, but not in a “this is your fault” way but in a “having an affair with a coworker may have these serious career repercussions” way with a healthy side of “if there is coercion or harassment at any point, you can come forward without fear of retaliation” (and make sure that’s true). Actually, ask about the harassment part first before getting into career repercussions. There is a possibility that she doesn’t feel safe to say no.

          Teach her because she needs to know and she’s an intern, but remember that there are power dynamics in play here.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think it’s a conversation for her boss / supervisor. I’d start with the point about harassment and coercion and check in with her to make sure she’s aware of the fact she can say no as well as yes. If you’re 20 it can be a lot harder to say no than people might think especially if you’re trying to make a good impression at work.

            If she’s clear it’s a voluntary thing then go on to talk about the potential career consequences. If this is her first experience of the workplace she may not understand them. There are a lot of romance novels about workplace romances and a lot fewer about what can go wrong with them.

          2. quill*

            Yeah, someone needs to check in with the intern about “hey we have resources and will not tolerate any sort of coercion or harassment” because telling her about how she threw her reputation away for a man is going to be counterproductive at best to preventing or addressing coercion and harassment.

    4. lost academic*

      The guy isn’t married, but was a live in BF as the OP stated. That being said the meat of the comment is still right. Or as one colleague I knew when I was much younger put it succinctly: “Don’t sh*t where you eat”

    5. Me*

      And why are we going to go after the intern for professional norms and not the boyfriend (not husband)? The boyfriend who is the actual employee. The boyfriend who is in a position of power in respect to the intern. The boyfriend who was the one in a relationship that HE violated. Your comment reads of internalized misogyny.

      Most employers want nothing to do with employees personal lives – nor should they. If there is a policy against fraternization then that’s one thing. I’d really hope they’d consider a policy about employees not dating interns. Otherwise the only focus should be on the working environment.

      If everyone involved is getting their work done, it’s a non issue.

      The manager appears to be violating boundaries by digging into OP’s life – that is an issue and that is what needs to be addressed here.

    6. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      And the company is there to facilitate that. Shift the blame towards the power, not away from it.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Bringing in the fact that the affair partner was in a relationship is icky. That’s a moral judgement and the outrage should not be focused on the uncommitted female intern, but the committed man who did the cheating. Plus “sleeping with married men” unrelated to work rarely has consequences at work.

      OTOH it is very fair to say “avoid romantic entanglements with coworkers,” “avoid bringing relationship drama into the workplace” (which honestly covers affairs that lead to a break up of a couple that are both employed by the company among other things), and keep it professional at work. I guess it’s hard to say the company frowns on relationships between employees when LW and her BF were both working for the company.

      1. Susie Q*

        Hard disagree. Willingness to have an affair with someone (even if you are not the committed partner) indicates a moral failing on the part of that person. I would suspect that person would also have other moral failings such as lying, cheating, etc.

        1. nothing rhymes with purple*

          Wouldn’t this moral culpability apply *even more* to the person who actually made the committment, though? I mean, neither of them have covered themselves in glory, but I think the older partner and experienced worker who was in a committed relationship is arguably even more to blame and certainly as much to blame as the younger, less powerful, inexperienced intern.

          1. Susie Q*

            I would agree. I believe both people are in the wrong and this situation should reflect poorly on both of them.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Really so you think that single people that have affairs with married people outside work usually suffer consequences at work for the affair?

          And I don’t think the intern was in the right. And frankly she was dumb if she knew he had a partner who worked at the company because who is the easiest for the company to fire in this situation? The intern.

          But if the creepy older man who cheated on his partner and coworker isn’t getting blamed/fired or suffering consequences of HIS cheating then the intern shouldn’t either.

        3. Bagpuss*

          That assumes that you know the committed partner is in fact committed. Which in many cases, the ‘other woman / other man’ in an affair doesn’t know.

          It’s very, very common for people who cheat to make excuses – they’re staying together for the kids, the relationship is over but they can’t sell the house / break the lease just yet /. they’ve agreed the relationship isn’t an exclusive one.

          And it’s often a convincing lie.

          I suspect that it’s made more convincing by the fact that a person who is falling in love and is attracted t o another person, generally sees them, to a degree, through rose-tinted glasses so if the options are “This person is trustworthy and has a good reason for not having yet openly split from their ex’ and ‘this person is a lying cheat ‘ they are more likely to interpret the information they have on the way that is most favourable to the person they have fallen in love with.

          1. Amonynous*

            Right? I’ve known several people (including myself) who have been the “other woman” or “other man” and in every case did not realize until it was too late.

            It’s a ridiculous responsibility to assign to a single person. Are you supposed to hire a private investigator every time you start dating someone?

    8. EventPlannerGal*

      Maybe they should try telling that to the guy who’s had two romantic entanglements with coworkers first?

    9. Observer*

      Someone needs to clue in the intern in #1 that sleeping with married men is not okay.

      If this comment were IN ADDITION to the *major* problem of the guy involved, I would somewhat agree with you. Getting into an affair with someone who is already partnered is a bad idea and can have negative professional repercussions.

      But it is REALLY problematic that that’s your only takeaway here. SHE is the only one who needs to hear about the inappropriate relationships, while the guy who was ACTUALLY betraying someone and who has a LOT more power in the pairing somehow doesn’t need anyone to do anything about HIS utterly (in)appropriate behavior.

    10. Batgirl*

      I think it is very important to have the professional norms around relationships conversation with interns – but I don’t think you can have that conversation AFTER the company has so spectacularly let them down on modelling that. The conversation should go something like; “Every permanent employee has a more powerful position than you and should not be approaching you romantically and there will be consequences for anyone who does, even if it does not rise to the level of dismissal, it will seriously affect their reputation and future. It’s particularly looked down upon if you’re asked to be an affair partner because the presumption is you’d only agree to a situation like that because of a power imbalance. Please report any approaches like this; it will be taken seriously. It’s important for you to know this because someday you’ll be managing intern’s yourselves and they are there to be taught, and will not be your dating pool.”

  31. disco bandit*

    Allison, I think you missed the mark on #2. If you are breastfeeding/pumping, then lactation is a bodily function that will vary from person to person just like some people need more frequent or longer bathroom breaks. The focus on billable hours punishes people whose bodies take them away from the desk more than average (as well as the classic problem of punishing people with family or other non-work obligations that mean they can’t work 60+ hour weeks).

    I am a lawyer, but work in an office that is salary based rather than billable hours based. The focus on the amount of time someone is sitting at their desk, as opposed to the quality and/or quantity of their work, is both misguided and toxic. If this employee is doing a good job and meeting necessary deadlines, then there is no problem. Focusing on how much time someone can give has always disproportionately harmed women or people who care for children/etc., and couching it in terms of “billable hours” doesn’t change that fact.

    1. Susie Q*

      I disagree. It’s not unfair of employers to expect employees a certain amount of hours.

      1. gef*

        it *is* unfair for employers to blindly set targets and hold everyone to the same standard without taking into account health and family situations, and penalize those who fall short due to those circumstances.

      2. Amtelope*

        Yes, it is, if some employees have temporary medical or family needs that require them to have paid time off. Providing paid breaks for nursing mothers without requiring them to make up those hours is what’s fair, not holding everyone to exactly the same standard regardless of their needs.

      3. Observer*

        Maybe. Maybe not.

        But it is ABSOLUTELY unfair to renege on an agreement because you failed to do your most basic due diligence.

    2. Not Alison*

      Kind of similar to the situation where an employee needs prolonged bathroom breaks every day and is not penalized for this health situation.

    3. Cat Lover*

      In the US, employees have no legal obligation to pay for pumping breaks- this company is, and I think they didn’t realize exactly how much (paid) time would be taken.

      We also don’t know what industry this is, so we have no idea how relevant billable hours is.

      The LW didn’t give any indication if they employees work was suffering- if it’s not, then they don’t really have any argument and will just need to suck it up and pay for the breaks. If work quality is suffering/not hitting billable hours/ another issue, then that’s a fair issue to bring up (and it doesn’t have to be centered around pumping).

  32. agnes*

    I”m not sure why I had such an angry reaction to the letter about the pumping mother. Maybe it’s because the LW didn’t take 5 minutes to research how much time it takes to pump. (30 minutes is being pretty efficient!)

    Maybe it’s because I suspect the associate might have been hired at .72 cents on the dollar compared to male associates.

    Maybe it’s because the LW is trying to make the case that it’s OK to renege on an accommodation they made because they miscalculated the cost.

    Maybe it’s because I suspect the LW has conveniently forgotten the many other accommodations –formal or informal–male associates have received over the years for various reasons.

    Or maybe it’s because I am imagining how differently this letter might be written if it were the LW’s partner whose employer was suddenly wanting to change the conditions of employment.

    1. Geez*

      Or maybe you should back up this anger for an employer who was trying to do the right thing in the beginning and is now worried and asked what they could do about it. Coming down like a ton of bricks on someone doing the right thing when they are having second thoughts is not the way to get more people/employers on board. Save your anger for all the employers who do not give any paid time to pumping moms, to employer’s who “let us” pump in the bathroom because they have to have one for us now. Save your indignation for the employer’s who fire us because we are using our breaks and lunches to pump and go over time, or for the managers/employees that do not want our breast milk in with their food. But maybe give the benefit of the doubt to someone paying us to pump who didn’t do their research.

      1. agnes*

        I can accept that feedback. I had my kids during a time when FMLA didn’t exist and women got fired for getting pregnant or missing too much work because of the needs of their children. I think I had a flashback to my boss telling me to come back to work or get fired when my daughter was 5 days old–although I had enough vacation time to stay out for a month and had previously been approved to do so.

        Thank you for the sanity check.

    2. Cat Lover*

      Yeah- that does seem like an overly angry response. LW seems to want to do the right thing and continue paying for pumping breaks (something many companies do not do) while trying to find a way to ease the financial burden.

      It’s also hard without other relevant info- what industry? Is the employee’s work suffering? Was a minimum amount of billable hours agreed to from the start?

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      The system is SO disheartening — but OP is clearly trying to balance the needs of the mother (offering paid pumping time) and the needs of her employer (the billable hours). She is asking for advice and checking her assumptions. We should encourage people to check their assumptions, not pillory them for it.

      Absolutely, offer critical feedback — but let’s not make her personally responsible for the failings of the system. Bezos memes aside, no individual is in a position to fix all the things you’ve mentioned, which are huge, intergenerational problems!!

    4. Manchmal*

      Well, the OP hasn’t quite included enough information to be able to tell with certainty, but I for one think you may have hit the nail on the head with at least one or two of these!

      I for one think that the pumping worker should be made aware of at least some aspect of the OP’s misgivings. If only so she can start pecking out some emails on her phone while she’s pumping (aka just enough to make some of that time “billable” in the way that every other employee does at some point during their day).

      1. Amtelope*

        No. This is the LW’s problem to fix. The employee is taking the time to pump that she was promised. She shouldn’t be penalized for that, either under the guise of “billable hours” or for any other reason. Protecting her is more important than meeting an arbitrary goal for billable hours.

      2. Le Sigh*

        If the benefit was instead a singing bonus or a raise, and the employer realized they promised more money than they could afford or meant to, would you find it fair for the employee to start paying some of it back and take a reduced rate? No, we’d say never trust your boss again and push the person to look for a new job.

        My dirty lens is that when parental/caregiver and/or sick leave enter the fray, we somehow think it’s fine to dump most or all of the load on the caregiver — we’re so conditioned, at least in the U.S., to expect nothing from employers that anything seems great. The OP made a commitment and it sucks that they didn’t realize what they were signing up for, but that’s frankly not the employee’s problem to solve. And if they push the problem onto the employee (whether directly or just even implicit pressure) I’d bet my left pinkie the employee (and possibly their coworkers) won’t forget it — they’ll have created a long-term issue out a short-term problem.

  33. ???*

    I’ll not sure how feasible this is, but you can work while nursing if it’s computer based work; there are inexpensive handsfree bras you can buy. The new employee would just need her own office, then she could work while nursing in private.
    Depending on the situation, this might be well received, I personally find pumping very boring and would prefer to be able to work while doing it.

    Maybe you could phrase it, We’re happy with everything but, if you’re interested in working while pumping we’ll give you your own office as long as you still need to pump.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Personally I never found that the hands-free bras worked for me (and I tried several) although some mothers may have had different experiences.

      1. Irish girl*

        Freemie cups are awesome and hands free and can attach to most pumps. Also there are 3 truly wireless pumps but those are expensive.

      2. Shenandoah*

        They never worked for me either. I pumped one breast at a time and used the other to do work – it was a PIA.

      3. Cat Tree*

        Yes, I have large breasts that sag quite a lot, so it’s hard to keep them in the right position with many hands-free products. I can kind of manage it if I only need my hands to scratch an itch or drink from my water bottle, but it would be really difficult for me to do more than that. I have to sit fairly still and make minor adjustments.

        Also, the actual pumping is only part of it. The set-up and clean-up take time, and you can’t really work during that.

    2. katertot*

      Yep- many coworkers answered emails/were on calls (muted) while they were pumping (exactly like you said- since it’s pretty boring haha) but I know they also were able to since they had their own offices and didn’t have to go to shared spaces they weren’t feeling rushed to get out of. They definitely weren’t just sitting there completely unproductive!

    3. Daisy-dog*

      This is dependent on a lot of factors for offices. I have had 2 offices – one had a glass door and a frosted glass wall (which was still pretty transparent) and the other was a pass-through room to another office. In the office where we all had glass doors, an employee did need to have a space for pumping and she was able to use the marketing storage room. Her workspace used a desktop computer in a cubicle, so there was no way to bring her work to the pumping room.

      1. katertot*

        Right- I think ??? is saying if the billable hours are that big of an issue, there’s ways to be productive during this time if they need the numbers to reduce- many women are able to answer emails and work while pumping- at least during some of the time.

    4. Observer*

      but you can work while nursing if it’s computer based work; there are inexpensive handsfree bras you can buy. The new employee would just need her own office, then she could work while nursing in private.

      I was one of those women who could do that. A lot of women CANNOT do that, however. It’s helpful to SUGGEST it as a possibility to raise. But it is totally unhelpful, and actually harmful, to state this as THE norm. It’s just too common for this to not be doable for many women.

    5. DiplomaJill*

      Everyone’s different, and those products don’t work for all.

      Some mommas need to look at pictures and videos of baby to stimulate let down. Some can work while they lactate and have tried focus somewhere else.

      I usually worked — answered emails, sat on calls –while I pumped. I’ll never forget someone on a call asking if someone was running their washing machine (nope, not a washing machine ha).

  34. lost academic*

    There are a lot of people talking about how the pumping will quickly decrease in frequency and duration and I really want to put a hard stop on that idea as normal – I personally have not experienced that until nearly 1 year old with either of my kids and have observed that with many mothers it hasn’t been true. I also have been on billable time for both kids. It will be true for some and the decision to cut back or supplement can be influence by many factors. Don’t put future employees (OP or any commenters reading this) in a position where if they don’t magically start pumping less when a baby is X months old it’s somehow a problem too. Take home message – 90 minutes in a workday is entirely normal, as would be 60 or 120. Finding a way to minimize the business impact of that time without being a total jerk to your employee is the goal.

    On a related note, my employer and for what it’s worth, my husband’s employer (they aren’t billable time though) have provided pumping spaces that allow work to be done while pumping but there’s definitely tasks I can’t entirely focus on the same way when doing so – I try to handle emails, editing, and conference calls rather than in depth analysis or memo drafting or drafting calculations for instance. Do try and provide that if possible, don’t try to assume that an employee can be billable through her pumping sessions.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed on pumping not always easing up. I didn’t see any major decrease in the amount of time I spent pumping till almost 16 months with my second, who would have happily kept me pumping for three years……

  35. Lacey*

    I get why they’d be nervous about the commute. I know a couple of people who took on long commutes and can’t hack it, but once you’ve told them you’ve already been doing a longer one, it’s weird that they’re so fixated on it.

  36. Health Insurance Nerd*

    LW with the husband as a reference- as a hiring manager, if a candidate submitted their husband as a professional reference I would 1) definitely not call him, and 2) very take that candidate out of the running for the role. Explaining why you’re not able to provide a current reference is better (IMO) than submitted a close relative, and (again IMO) using your husband as a reference is just not professional.

    1. rudster*

      How would explaining the reason they can’t provide a current reference help, if the reason is that you refuse to accept their only employer reference? You’re just going circles with that logic. The inevitable result of that line of thinking is that people who have spent an extended part of their career supporting their spouse’s or family business should never even bother trying to get another job.

      1. Koala dreams*

        No, the conclusion is that employers should be open to other types of references, not have a blanket rule about references from the last X number of managers. You could talk to volunteer work supervisors, clients, vendors, teachers. As an applicant you won’t have a say in the hiring practices of potential employers, but you need to keep looking until you find someone who has a more flexible hiring process.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think taking someone out of the running for putting their husband down as a reference is a bit harsh. I had a candidate whom for ten years had been running a business with her husband. She followed the online application instructions which required her to provide a reference for her manager and it had to be within the last ten years. Well, that was the closest she had. I didn’t hold that against her. Why would I? Instead, when she got to the reference check stage post interview, I asked for another reference- from volunteer work or even a previous employee. She was able to provide a former employee who worked somewhere else now and we hired her. She’s been nothing but professional, but was in a tough spot. Throwing out a top candidate over something like this would seem very punitive to people who run small family businesses.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I get why it’s not ideal, but after reading about all the vindictive, psychotic, insane bosses who could easily torpedo a reference, it’s ok to have the deck stacked in your favor every once in a while!

  37. pretzelgirl*

    I pumped for around 3 years collectively between my kids. Yes 30 mins is pretty reasonable, for set up, time to pump and clean up. Parts need to be cleaned or rinsed after each use (you can store your parts in the fridge…pro tip!) Some people have mentioned dropping pump sessions once the baby is older. This doesn’t always work for everyone keep that in mind. I couldn’t drop pump sessions at work, bc then my supply would dip. So probably pumped 3 times a day for the first year and then dropped to 2, after my kids turned 1. At about 15-18 months most of my kids were weaned.

    Also I needed 3 pumps to keep up with how much my babies drank. Everyone is different!

  38. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    As someone who’s spent most of her life in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, #3 made me chuckle. I know it’s regional and many places look at our commutes with horror, but urban sprawl here is intense and driving 20-40 miles in never-ending traffic is pretty standard. I’m always happy if a commute is less than an hour and THRILLED if it’s less than forty minutes. Some highways will be backed up no matter the time of day (I swear, the only time I’ve seen 75 without traffic was past midnight), and traffic is just a way of life, so commute times are always longer than they should be.

    I don’t love it. And the short period of time I was driving 40 miles to work in 2019 felt like torture. But some people adjust to it just fine, and it’s good for interviewers to be aware that, if someone is used to that sort of commute, they’re not likely to burn out all of a sudden.

    1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

      It was quiet during lockdown! I live where I can see/hear traffic all day long and it was weirdly quiet for however long that was. But you’re absolutely right on how long anywhere takes especially at rush hour. I don’t miss the commute up 35.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      I’m pretty sure 75 has also been under various degrees of construction since the beginning of time.

  39. SK*

    The intern’s manager sounds like he’s treating you as a scorned woman. If that’s the case, then he’s being sexist.

    It sounds like you and/or your employer are ignorant about how the body recovers and functions after the birth of a child. IMHO even you knew how long it takes to pump breast milk and decided to not pay your nursing mother for that time or forced her to make up that time, then that would make your employer a pretty gross place to work for new mothers. It almost sounds like discrimination based on a medical condition.

    I have been there. I truly suspect I lost out on a lot of entry-level office jobs (which could have bettered my situation by just getting my foot in the door) because I said I had a one hour commute and my interviewers said “wow that’s long.” My one-hour quote was even a low estimate. I live in NYC. The only people who would live close to the office are gentrifiers, people who have parents subsidizing their rent, and folks who haven’t been pushed out of their rent stabilized housing yet. My address would be on my resume and they wait until the interview to ask this. I feel like asking anything about a candidate’s living situation should be discriminatory. Highly motivated and responsible people will get up on time and account for any commuting hiccups just in case. It’s wrong to assume that a long commute means you won’t be able to do your job.

  40. Paperdill*

    I am a nurse who works for a public state health department. We have an excellent union and award conditions which includes 2 paid 30 minute lactation breaks per shift over 4 hours (that’s on top of paid meal breaks) – something of a gold standard as far as lactation breaks go. So I was initially thinking that 3 30minute breaks was a lot.
    BUT we also have paid maternity leave as well and federally maternity packages that means that most nurses I know were able to comfortably take 12 months maternity leave.
    Now, if this mother is needing to express 3 times a day I am suspecting/hypothesising that her baby is still fairly young and this mother has not had the luxury of 12 months paid maternity leave.
    In which case (and this is just a hypothesis) paying for this mother to have her lactation breaks is a bargain in comparison to either paying for 12 months maternity leave or, indeed, loosing a capable, loyal staff member.

    1. WellRed*

      If the LW is in the US ( which it sounds like) then it’s not helpful to compare paid pumping as a bargain to something that doesn’t exist.

  41. A Non E. Mouse*

    LW2, where do you have her set up to pump? Is it a space that could accommodate a laptop?

    The pumping room my employer set up when I needed it for my youngest, we were able to set up a computer, phone, etc.

    I then used that time to knock out what would probably be considered non-billable work – email clean up/replying to emails that needed my input, drafting documents for review, sorting or formatting a spreadsheet that needed some love, stuff like that.

    I will say I was only comfortable doing this because there was a lock on the *inside* of the door I could engage, like you’d have at a hotel, so I knew no one would bust in. But it did help me stay on top of things.

    So could you approach this as “we noticed that the pumping time is affecting billable hours, what about adding a computer (or ability to connect a laptop) to the pumping room to recapture some working time for you?”

    Also: 30 minutes at a time 3 times a day with a younger baby sounds about right. It dropped for me to twice a day once each child was 6-ish months old, and then by 9 months I wasn’t pumping at all (just nursing mornings/nights at home). But each person’s body is different, I didn’t mind supplementing with formula if there wasn’t enough milk, and I wasn’t dealing with supply issues.

  42. Dwight Schrute*

    I just want to say I’m envious of the boss who thinks an hour is too long of a commute! An hour is the norm where I am, I think closer to two hours each way would get some eyebrow raises in my area but 30-1:30 long is pretty normal given the traffic situation in Atlanta

  43. pretzelgirl*

    3- I have noticed this myself in my area. Where I am from there is a large metro area and about 45 min south there is a small-medium sized metro area (with a ton of suburbs in between). I live in the small-medium metro area. Pretty much for my entire working life I have commuted to the large metro area. A ton of people from area do this. But people who live in Large Metro area don’t always get this. They are shocked when I say I have a long commute. I almost always get asked in interviews about it. But I explain its something I have always done and they seem to understand.

    1. A Ladrona*

      Yes, I have also said “I used to commute to NYC when I lived in NY so this is nothing!” to put people at ease. Most *reasonable* people don’t harp on it (esp if you are going against traffic, but again, they clearly don’t get it).

  44. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 2, I’m not sure you and your employer are as family-friendly as you think you are. In fact, you sound downright paternal and a bit superior.

    For instance, you wrote, This is her second child, so we know she’s not new to this and is as efficient as possible.’

    Very condescending of you to ‘know’ this, but if think she’s as efficient as possible, then it stands to reason that it takes her 90 minutes. It sounds like you don’t think she’s efficient and you’re griping about her schedule taking longer than you think it should.

    Next, you wrote, ‘We have had one other nursing mother in the past but didn’t seem to have the same problem – I’m not sure why. (She had already been on staff for years before having her child, so it may be that we just didn’t notice.)’

    So what if another nursing mother didn’t ‘have the same problem’? First, your employee doesn’t have a problem – you do. Second, I’ve never had children but women have told me that breastfeeding and pumping were often very different from one child to another. We’re dealing with biology, not process and procedure.

    Finally: ‘My employer is pro-family, but having done the math this comes out to about 10 full work weeks per year in paid pumping time, time that we cannot bill to our clients.’

    Again, you’re not as pro-family as you say. It sounds like you’re pro-family as long as you can bill for your employee’s time as usual. Others have already pointed out your faulty logic about how long a nursing mother will need to pump, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll say it’s revealing that you’re complaining about is billing your client for every possible minute your employees have, and not considering how to work with an employee during a temporary situation in her family’s life.

    Please rethink your and your employer’s willingness and ability to be pro-family, because you don’t come across that way. And please cut your employee some slack. Unless she’s producing sub-par output, work with her temporary situation.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I thought SheLooksFamiliar was very kind and thoughtful. You may not agree with the crux of the response, but I see nothing “mean” about it.

        1. Cat Lover*

          It just seems very targeted towards the LW (who is trying their best) vs. being mad at the system in place.

          Just my opinion, though.

      2. so many questions*

        I don’t think it was mean. I was taken aback at the original letter, because it seemed so tone-deaf and clueless.

      3. Skippy*

        I respectfully disagree. It’s not mean to point out that calling your company “pro-family” while trying to figure out a way to go back on a promise to let a nursing mother have time to pump because she isn’t maximizing your profits is more than a little bit disingenuous.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Agree, this is objectively *not* family friendly. If OP stops here and realizes they are wrong to think of trying to go back on this agreement then I wouldn’t hold it against them for a brief panic when realizing the billing hours they hadn’t thought about missing before.

          But I don’t think they had reasonable expectations going into this if they somehow thought it should take significantly less than 30 minutes per pump break, and I fully agree it is not okay to advertise yourself as “family-friendly” and then try to go back on this agreement that the nursing mother presumably relied on when agreeing to take this job. They would be far from the first company to not pay women while they pump, but companies who set up certain expectations with their “family friendly” billing and then don’t follow through are in my opinion worse than the ones that don’t even pretend to care.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I re-read my post and didn’t how angry I sounded. OP, I apologize for being curt with you…but I am also fed up with employers complaining about nursing mothers in the workplace. I’ve heard these complaints my entire professional life – yes, even with ‘family friendly’ companies – and it’s gotten old.

      I’m 60 years old and would like to think we’ve progressed beyond this but, here we are, still dealing with the same complaints, assumptions, and same mindsets about the same issues.

      1. V. Anon*

        I think a lot of us with “mean” or “angry” responses are older. Conditions for mothers in the workplace have gotten better, yes. But oh so slightly. Oh so very very slightly. It’s enraging.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Thank you for this. I agree with you that things are better than they were decades ago, but we’re not where we could and should be. It’s enraging and tiresome.

          1. Jessica*

            I read SheLooksFamiliar’s response above as blunt and pointed rather than angry.
            Frustrating yet again that a women being blunt direct is of course “angry” or “mean”.

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              (The following comment is at society at large, not you in particular @Jessica.)

              I know this is an uphill battle, but I don’t think angry should be considered a negative.

              Anger is a valid emotion and is justified, such as in the case of stigmitizing natural body functions (including those required to keep our species going). I don’t have a uterus and I’m angry about the society’s stance on breastfeeding and childcare.

            2. Cat Lover*

              I was the commenter that said the comment “seemed mean”.

              I am a woman. I do think a lot of commenters on this site immediately assume the worst of every LW and don’t take them at their word (which is one of Alison’s commenting rules). Nothing to do with women being blunt. I am a pretty straight-forward, blunt woman myself.

              1. Batgirl*

                I had a similar reaction to you tbh. I completely respect the anger people at the overall issue; it truly is exasperating that a simple and recurring issue has no generalized social support structure in 2021, but focusing that anger on an individual, in particular on the choice of the word “know” to describe a common sense inference did strike me as a bit unfair.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I did read your comment as angry (which is valid), but not mean (which I don’t generally considered valid).

    2. Lizy*

      Yep. Either you’re pro-family and why are you writing in, or you’re not, and wanting Alison to help you justify it.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I don’t think it’s quite that binary. There absolutely are letters on here trying to justify crap behavior, but there are also a lot of people out there who feel in their hearts, for example, that it’s good to be pro-family, or feminist, or anti-racist, etc., and they feel they are — but they don’t always realize what that really means. And then they encounter something like this and default to whatever cultural norms or biases they’re used to until someone challenges them on it, they don’t fully realize what they’re asking or doing.

        I dunno if that’s the case here and that doesn’t make OP’s plan okay in the least. The OP’s company agreed to it and it’s on them to honor it and deal with the downsides (also, it’s a short-term problem to retain a good employee! take the lumps for the long-term gains!). And plenty of people will just double down when challenged — I hope the OP won’t though, will realize why this is deeply unfair and would actually harm their own company, and change course.

  45. Tib*

    OP 2, this was a wonderful perk you offered and I’m sorry you didn’t realize the time involved. This is a biological process and it’s going to always take the amount of time it takes and will be different for each person. Pumping is a game of relaxation and confidence: you have to trust your body and be able to relax on demand to allow nature to work well. Stress and pressure can definitely get in the way. Your previous employee is not a fair comparison because of everything previous commenters have mentioned, but also because she was already established in her job and work relationships. She knew the building and was able to imagine what pumping would be like before she needed to do it. Your new employees is dealing with the stress of a new job, a new baby and a toddler at home, and she’s doing all of it during a pandemic. You haven’t mentioned any performance issues, so I imagine she’s being productive and professional. I think you’ve made a good long-term investment and it will pay off in the long run.

  46. PumpingMom*

    Just here to comment on LW#2: I nursed two kids and the relationship was different for both. Often, mothers will produce more with each kid, and that takes time to extract – on average, 10-15-20 minutes, and that’s generous, given there’s cleaning and bottling and redressing to do. I’m really glad you offered that mother paid pumping time – the federal laws DO NOT – so she likely feels more relaxed, unrushed, fully emptied, and ready to be twice as productive when she returns to her desk as a result. You are paying for her mental well-being, and the nourishment of her child, if you needed *another* reason to feel justified by your choice.

  47. employment lawyah*

    2. We under-estimated how long a breast-feeding employee would need for pumping time every day
    There may be a middle ground.

    First, you can reasonably work with her to be efficient. If it takes her 20 minutes/day to pack up her stuff to bring it home so she camp pump at night, then buy her a second set for work. If it takes her 20 minutes to set up the room, try to find a different room and leave it set up. You’re also fine to ask her to push any side stuff (washing, prep) out of work hours, to the degree possible.

    Next, you seem to be thinking that pumping is an entirely non-work-productive activity…? That does not need to be true. Mothers need privacy, but it’s perfectly possible to pump and read emails; pump and watch training videos; etc. Very few of the professional women I know who pump are just sitting in a chair contemplating motherhood; they’re usually on their phones or working.

    And if you can be on your phone for fun, you can be on your phone for work. You pay her for pump time but you DON’T need to pay her for relaxation time, and you can reasonably expect her to use her time efficiently–even when pumping. Maybe she won’t be talking to clients, but even if it takes her a while to express, she may be the perfect person to learn all of those multi-hour-training things which nobody has the time for., etc.

    1. Forrest*

      >>You’re also fine to ask her to push any side stuff (washing, prep) out of work hours, to the degree possible

      I really don’t think you can do this. It’s milk, remember! Not washing the equipment immediately after you’ve finished expressing would be a really, really bad idea.

      1. Shenandoah*

        Bringing enough flanges for each pump was a big timesaver for me (my husband’s contribution to feeding our child was washing 2 sets of pumping items a day). But agreed with you on the not washing bit, and either way, I can’t see a way that OP could have this conversation? I have a very good relationship with my boss and would have found it weird if she had initiated a conversation about how to make my pumping sessions shorter.

      2. Blackcat*

        Not exactly! I was always told to put my pump parts in a bag in the fridge between sessions and wash each night. I did, and my kid was fine.

    2. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      Not trying to assume your level of knowledge here, but I’m pretty sure the reason setting up/cleaning up for pumping takes so long is in part because each of the million parts of a breast pump has to be washed after pumping, which takes awhile whether you have a space that’s designated for you and you alone pumping or not.

      1. quill*

        We JUST had a letter about the importance of cleaning and packing the pumping equipment before storing the milk and equipment in the office fridge, too!

      2. employment lawyah*

        Well, I confess that having had 3 kids and having seen what they touch, chew on, lick, and suck (everything!) I distinguish between “surgically clean” and “clean enough for ordinary life” and usually I end up w/ the latter. Heh.

        But no matter what your position, you can do so pretty fast if (for example) you plan for it. Planning works!

        We got a doohickey that attached to our sink faucet and streamed out the tubes super fast. I can’t find it now and you may not want to use it on a work sink, but you can also do tubes very well w/ a point-tip bottom-feed squeeze bottle: Try searching amazon for “Axe Sickle 3pcs Plastic Safety Squeeze Bottle 500 mL” and you’ll see what I mean (you may want a smaller 250ml one if you have smaller hands.)

        And if there’s a parent somewhere who hasn’t delayed a cleaning for a while to tend to a kid, I have yet to meet ’em! The old “soak in soapy water” trick has saved us many a time; while you can’t just leave milk-covered things to dry and get gross, you can (and we did) do a low level rinse and then leave them to soak in some soapy water, especially if you have a spare set. If you can do it at home, you can do it at work (use a Tupperware to soak though, it won’t spill and keeps the dust out.)

        And of course, it’s sometimes the matter of literally going shopping for the brush / sponge which simply fits, whether it’s for fittings or anything else.

        Generally, if it’s taking someone a ton of time just to clean up that can usually get shortened. Even if you knock off 10 minutes per session, that adds up fast over time, especially w/ multiple sessions a day.

    3. Snark No More!*

      Be careful with the phone calls! Some of those pumps are loud enough to distract the person on the end of the call.

    4. Boof*

      Just be careful it took me a LONG time to pump enough; just physically things did not flow fast. It should be up to the pumping employee how much time they need – employer shouldn’t try to force them to minimize it.
      The main thing is potentially they can do some computer work while pumping; phone calls might be iffy usually people can hear the pump in the background and ask what it is :P

    5. Mommy Shark*

      Pumping is anything but relaxing. Watching those drips, wondering if you’re going to have enough to feed your baby today. And you may not know this, if you’re stressing out, which work emails can do, it can affect your output. For some nursing parents the most effective way to spend pumping time is to look at photos of their children to speed up the milk flow.

  48. Daytripper75*

    I used to pump at work and would use the time while the machine was doing its thing to email, write reports, eat, etc. It was easy enough to multitask.

    1. Louisa*

      Women’s bodies vary and type of work also varies. It’s a possible solution, but not a definite one.

  49. WantonSeedStitch*

    Yeah, LW #2, I have to say that this is perfectly reasonable. As someone who is currently pumping, part of the issue is the time involved in the actual pumping. Part of it is washing the parts of the pump that have to be washed afterwards, and storing the milk. While some people can do all the pumping they need to do in a session in 15 minutes, for others, that alone can take half an hour (or sometimes more). If you don’t pump until you’re empty, and if you skip pumps, your supply will drop and you will have a much harder time feeding your baby without supplementing with formula. You really can’t ask someone to spend less time pumping. For one thing, if your company is covered by the FLSA, you are legally obligated to provide her with reasonable time for pumping (without requiring her to work extra to make up for it). If your company has fewer than 50 employees, AND you can demonstrate that it creates an undue hardship, you may be considered exempt. And if other employee breaks are compensated, you have to pay her for the time she spends pumping too.

    And here’s the thing: pumping is HARD. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of time. You sometimes feel like your entire life is spent either hooked up to the pump or washing the parts. Having an employer who is understanding and generous in allowing time for pumping without holding it against you makes it a little easier, a little better. If you can be that employer, your employee is going to feel much better about working for you, and is more likely to put in maximum effort when she’s NOT pumping, and to stay on longer to work for you after she’s put away the pump for good.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        If other employee breaks are compensated, yes, they do, per the DOL. If she’s paid hourly but employee breaks are compensated, they can’t treat breaks for pumping differently in that regard. If she’s salaried, they can’t cut her salary because she’s pumping.

        1. Susie Q*

          There is no evidence that this company provides paid breaks.

          However, this means if company pays for a lunch break, the employee must use the lunch break to pump in order to get paid. “However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time” If the employee doesn’t use the lunch break to pump milk, the pumping milk break does not have to be compensated but the lunch break does.

      2. Observer*

        But they don’t have to pay her for her time to pump.

        They do if they agreed to it! Failure to do you basic due diligence is a really bad reason to back out of an agreement.

        The OP is not a monster. But they need to realize that this is their mistake.

      3. Simply the best*

        If they didn’t want to pay her for her time to pump, they shouldn’t have told her that they would. As simple as that. Going back on something that was negotiated during the interview that may have been a major factor in why someone takes the job because you didn’t take the time to calculate what it would mean is a bad thing to do. It makes you a bad and untrustworthy employer.

    1. Fabulous*

      Also currently pumping and can attest to the fact that pumping is HARD. I’m currently doing 3x a day (plus once at night) and I still don’t make enough to fill all the bottles my girl needs for daycare so she gets one formula bottle a day.

      1000% for having an understanding company who allows you the time you need.

  50. A Ladrona*

    LW3 – I have found this hyper focus on the commute due to the interviewer having to deal with a long commute and not understanding how someone can manage it.

    I live in a rural area that is about an hour away from our largest city where I have to go for the work I do. But the area I live in has a bit of a reputation for being VERY rural and I didn’t know that would be an issue once I moved here. I’m originally from NY so long commutes to me would be something significantly over an hour but here no one travels to the city for work.

    So I purchased a PO Box closer to the city, in an area that is close enough that there are public transportation options for commuting, just to ensure I wasnt immediately axed by those who saw where I lived. But one interviewer still had an issue with me living outside the city even though most employees do. She lived outside the city herself and hated driving so she was a bit ridiculous about the whole topic. She hadn’t noticed where I lived exactly but just the fact I didn’t live in the city bothered her.

    So best of luck but like you said, perhaps this was just another red flag to add to the pile showing these folks are not the fit for you.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it’s honestly not terribly uncommon that people sign up for a commute and then find once they are doing it twice a day, five days a week it really is a lot worse than they expected. I experienced that once with a 40 minute commute, but thankfully it was a summer job so I was able to deal with it for just that one summer.

      If each person they interviewed with separate brought it up as an issue, my first guess would be that they may even have had someone leave over that somewhat recently.

      I do think it’s worth asking about, but I also think since it sounds like OP is already doing a similar commute they obviously know for sure they are fine with it and they should let it go.

  51. _ID_*

    For LW1 – first of all, I’m really sorry that this happened to you. Please take care of yourself!

    Secondly, have a conversation with your manager about this and document it – even if it’s an email to yourself. I had to be proactive when my brother’s pot-stirring in-law was assigned to work with me on a project at Big Company. Sure enough – she stirred the pot. So telling my boss up front “hey, this person is likely to make trouble for me because she hates my brother” was embarrassing but helpful.

    At a minimum – Pot Stirring Manager should get a friendly “butt out” call from HR or your manager.

    Good luck! You will get through this and come out better than ever!

  52. SMH*

    LW1 My guess is the intern is trying to ensure they are hired at the end of their internship. I can see a sexual harassment suit being filed if she’s not hired. I to find it interesting that manager doesn’t care that intern has a guy 10 years older than her perusing her while in a committed relationship but is concerned that ex girlfriend is at the same company. I would love an update that includes ex boyfriend being fired, a new policy regarding dating of interns, and the manager who made the phone call dealt with severely.

    1. RS*

      I had this same thought. The intern might have presented a warped version of her concerns to her manager in an attempt to establish sympathy for herself on the grounds that she’s worried about retaliation of some sort. The consequences that the intern might really be worried about are the (likely?) possibility that she won’t be offered a full-time job after her internship or perhaps that she won’t get a good reference; she might have misrepresented those concerns to her boss as a more diffuse anxiousness about “retaliation,” leaving unsaid who she feared might retaliate, and how. Regardless, her manager showed remarkably poor judgement about dragging OP’s friend into the discussion.

  53. FuzzyBrain*

    @LE#3 … speaking from experience, sometimes people with long commutes say that it’s not gonna be a problem, and then turn around after a couple of weeks and start complaining about hours at work, hours in the car, and start asking about working from home or changing their hours. It sounds to me like they’ve been burned in the past by someone who said they could handle the commute and then in fact could not or did not. I even had someone in the office, on a neighboring team, try to convince others with the same or longer commutes to demand that the hours in our office be lessened so that they could be paid for their time in the car.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Yup. This has happened to me so many times, unfortunately. People who insist the commute isn’t a problem, but then ask for all sorts of accommodations. I have been asked:
      – To set up a complicated job share to enable someone to work part time, after being hired full time
      – To pay for an employee’s commute time after their purchase of a new, far away house
      – To release an employee to WFH every afternoon, increasing the burden on staff who would remain on site
      – To change the start times of client appointments so the person could arrive on time even in bad traffic, only to find they were still arriving late

      1. Forrest*

        I really don’t think that people *asking* for accommodations should be seen as a problem. You’re free to say no!

  54. Pets banshees*

    LW1, it’s likely that the intern’s manager has been told untruths about you from the intern. Not that that’s necessarily the intern’s fault, a lot of cheaters justify their behavior by making you out to be a terrible/crazy person to others, including their cheating partners. She may be legitimately scared of you for no goo reason. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Check out Chump Lady if you need a pick-me-up.

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that regardless of the Intern and Ex may have said, the Manager was just wildly inappropriate.

  55. CubeFarmer*

    It surprises me that no one at LW#2’s workplace bothered to research the time needed for pumping, and then to do a little math. This seems to be 100 percent on them, and not the employee, for not educating themselves.

  56. Susie Q*

    Honestly for LW #2, in the future, you should just state you are willing to pay for up to 60 minutes a day for pumping. Any more than that will need to make up just like any other break like lunch. Obviously, consult a lawyer to word it properly but it is still a huge perk!

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Nope. They made that offer upfront to this woman and she took them on their word. It is not her fault that they didn’t research/ask about the timing. To now try and change it because of a miscalculation on their part will not make them look good.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I don’t think Susie Q was suggesting changing the existing agreement with this specific employee, but rather that this is the policy they should enact for any future employees needing to pump.

  57. Yennefer of Vengerberg*


    This will be an unpopular opinion on here, but if I were in your shoes, I would just list my husband as my reference and not mention the relationship. While many hiring managers on this site do thorough reference checks, my experience with reference checking has been sort of a quick check box. You may lose a job because they figure out the relationship, but you’ll lose even more for not being able to provide a single serious professional reference. Plus, I think you stand a very good chance of them not figuring out the relationship – unless they have some connection to your previous employer or social circle.

    The situation is far from ideal, but you have bills to pay and this is hardly the worst candidates do. I think as long as you’re honest about your experience and bring your A game to this role, you’re morally in the clear to lie by omission here. Once you land your first job, you can put this behind you and use the references you gain from that role going forward.

    1. pieces_of_flair*

      Morality aside though, this has the potential to go very wrong for the LW if she is found out. If the boss somehow realizes over the course of LW’s employment (through small talk, company events, etc.) that the Fergus she gave as a reference is the same Fergus she’s married to, her honesty and integrity will be called into question. Better to disclose the relationship up front and explain the situation as Alison suggested. Lies like this almost always come back to bite you IME.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Honestly, I would be seriously and deeply concerned if I found out an employee of mine had mislead me like this. In fact, it would make me question their integrity completely and would make me wonder if I could keep them. If you can’t be honest during the hiring process about a totally solvable problem, than why should I trust you to be honest about your time sheets?

      I’ve hired someone who put down their husband as a reference (she had been working in a family business they co-owned.) She explained the situation and was totally upfront. I understood her situation and I got a reference from a former employee of hers who was no longer working for her. So, it worked out fine. This isn’t a big problem as long as everyone is upfront and the person it s a top candidate (which this person was.)

  58. ThisIsTheWay*

    LW2- Interesting because we just had a very part timer- like 10 hours a week- pump on her shifts. We knew there was accommodation to be made of course but being so part time it was more than expected.
    On her short shifts- about 4 hours- she would both pump and breaks. It did raise some eyebrows how little she was working, just FYI as you think about it.

    1. gef*

      FYI for what? that you also made a choice without researching first and now are “raising eyebrows” at a working mother for something you yourself agreed to?

  59. Boof*

    LW2 – sorry but yeah, 1.5 hrs a day x 5 days a week x 5 weeks = 37.5 hours; the numbers were there from the start so it’d be really bad for you to say now you don’t like them when you agreed to them!
    You’ll definitely do yourself a big favor by NOT pushing on this at all. If you do, more than just the employee might get upset if they hear about what’s happening!
    The one thing you could maybe ask is, well, for me at least I had a laptop and worked on notes etc while pumping. It’s pretty boring just to sit there and my work needs to get done whatever the hours, and most pumping gear is hands free; I don’t know if your employee has the type of work that can be done on a computer but if so, it may be worth asking if they’d be ok doing some of that while pumping (heck, maybe you’ll learn they already are!). I’d say maybe 15 min working per half hr pumping since there’s significant set up, cleaning, and fiddling time involved.

  60. Rowan*

    LW4 – You might also want to look into “returnship” programs. They’re like internships, but aimed at people who have been out of the workforce for a while, for whatever reason. Doing one or two of those would get you more current professional references.

  61. Fabulous*

    #2 – As a currently pumping mother – 90 minutes is very normal, and even on the short side!!

    I’ve thankfully been working from home this entire time so I can still work during my pumping time, but when I returned to work and first started pumping in January, I was doing 4x a day for 30 minutes each, plus about 10-15 minutes on either side for setup and storage – so totaling about 150ish minutes Every. Single. Day. Granted, it was a lot (for me too, not just for work) and I took out one pump, so now I’m only doing 3x, but it’s still over 100 minutes of pumping every weekday.

    That being said, I was in the office for my first and had to use the mother’s room with no desk setup, so I really wasn’t able to do anything other than play on my phone or read. I ended up cutting my sessions short so I could get back to my desk, and ultimately screwing up my supply.

    If you’re looking for more billable hours from your worker, I’d suggest offering them to work from home so they can at least pump from their desk and not have to be completely on downtime during those 90 minutes. Having that flexibility and the privacy of pumping in your own home goes a long way!!

  62. Buttercup*

    LW#5 – I also work for a local government (public health) and have several chronic conditions that preclude my being able to do much in the way of travel or physical labor during an emergency. But I can do some things (data entry, manning phones, checking lists, filing emergency paperwork, prepping emergency aid kits, etc.) and those are what were taken into account when our “activation” become necessary last year.

  63. Anya Last Nerve*

    Although an hour is a fairly common commute, I’m going to disagree that it’s not awful. That’s a full 10 hours of commuting time a week, and OP says it’s a drive so it’s not like a train where they could sleep or read etc. I had a 1 hour train ride to work and it SUCKED. I did it for 8 years but hated it and jumped to take a job a 15 minute drive from my house, even though it came with a substantial paycut. I’ve also seen many letters on this site where people complain about 45 minute to 1 hour commutes. I even had a coworker once who didn’t want to keep commuting nearly 2 hours by train to a job so he came to work at a company that was a 45 minute drive and it was great! He saw his kids every day! Two years later he went back to a job in the 2 hour train ride location, saying that driving 45 minutes was too hard and he wanted to just chill on the train. People are weird about commutes. Maybe this OP loves driving 2 hours a day to and from work and will never ever change their mind about that, but I have seen the opposite too many times to not view this as a yellow flag if I’m interviewing and there are candidates who live closer.

  64. Sherri*

    For LW2 – As a former breastfeeding Mom, 90 minutes per day is more than what I did, but I see many other commenters that were more in line with 90, so I get that. I blocked my calendar for 30 minutes twice a day for the most part. I kept this up until my first born was about 15 months, and slightly earlier for my second, so depending on how old her baby was when she started, it could taper off earlier (or not). A couple points:

    1) Most working moms I knew before I became one were pretty conscientious about being a good employee and were very focused on getting their jobs done as they needed to work (no one pumps and works if they don’t have to). How is this one otherwise? If she’s really just reading a magazine instead of pumping, she’s likely to be slack elsewhere and you can focus on that. If she’s hardworking outside the pumping room, assume she needs those 90 minutes for the time being and let it go.

    2) On average (and yes, I know there are exceptions to this – I said average :)!), breastfed babies don’t get sick as often as formula fed, so if she weren’t pumping, she’d be calling in sick more often to take care of her baby.

  65. LQ*

    #5 hasn’t gotten a lot of attention here but I think it’s a good question. The only thing here would be that the activation duties often had more to do with what other work you were capable of doing and less of what the position required. We were an essential service so they couldn’t just steal our folks. But in other areas of the agency non-essential folks with nursing backgrounds got pulled into nursing support work if they still could regardless of where they worked now. The work that people got activated for varied greatly. It also relied a lot on self-reporting. So if you say you have x skill they may tap you for x skill. But if you have it but don’t say it they won’t likely pull you in.

    That said if you don’t volunteer skills and your area isn’t essential you can get pulled into we need warm bodies who can move stuff, answer phones, data enter. Unless your work is something where they know what your skills are. Some of our folks got moved around because we knew they’d have these other skills because it was just applying them to a different basic thing.

    Your local government may be different (I’m at state level). But I’d expect that question would be fine. 3 years ago everyone would have given you a funny look if you’d asked, but today I’d be able to give you a pretty good answer based on work we do, skills I expect people in the positions to have and the rest.

  66. PolarVortex*

    I think a lot of others are covering the handling the intern part but I just wanted to say something else:

    Please take care of yourself. It sounds like with your friend/coworker you’re staying with that you’ve got a safe space to escape to. Rally your people around you, friends, family, their support will help you get through this. Take time off if you need to. Be kind to yourself about everything. If your manager is unaware that you are going through a very traumatic break up with someone you work with, let them know. Do what it takes to get through now, let yourself figure out the future when you’re feeling stable again. You’re going to be fragile and vulnerable when you return to work, so find some coping mechanisms, find coworkers who’ll help protect you. If any part of your job intersects with theirs, see if your manager can find someone to cover that for now. (Or forever quite honestly.)

    And to help: start thinking through scenarios where you run into ex and intern at work. Imagine worst case scenario and how you’ll react. Imagine normal running into them in the bathroom and how you’ll react. Practice out loud. Running through these scenarios will help you stay strong (emotionally, mentally) if/when it happens and will help you (ugh I hate I’m saying this) come across as the better person. (If the ex/intern are being flaunty about their new thing, you are going to have to prepare for this hard. As others have suggested, now that the drama of the secret relationship is over, they want the drama of the Terrible Ex They Work With. You need to prepare yourself for that.)

    I am unaware of how much your manager knows, and I know most of us in a professional environment don’t want to mix in our personal life. But we care as managers and we recognize life happens.

    (By the stars, we care, I just think about my one employee who had an equally terrible break up and how we (I, the powers above me) helped to ensure they could find a safe place to be, a new place to live, etc. I hope your management will be the same.)

    1. AY*

      You know what really, extra sucks about all this? The crappy ex and the intern have deprived LW of a space where she can just go to be normal and productive and not heartbroken. I loved going to work right after a breakup and throwing myself into something that had nothing to do with my feelings.

      1. llamaswithouthats*

        This is why I’m very strict about not dating at work or even within my industry. Yes I know it works out sometimes and some people think I’m being over the top paranoid, but for me it’s just not worth the risk. I’ve seen this go wrong for so many people – especially women.

        The problem with workplace attraction is that it is really easy for people to hide the worst part of themselves because it’s an environment where you present the most clean cut version of yourself. In my last job, I had a coworker I worked with for over a year who seemed like the most chill person on earth. Near the end of my tenure, I learned from incidental gossip that he was sleeping with multiple women in the office from different departments and was psychologically abusive towards them. Talk about a hot mess!

        1. PolarVortex*

          I have the same rule. But I know there’s a lot of people at my workplace that either started dating at work or their partner/spouse ended up applying for my company and joining afterwards. To be fair, work has been very good about handling all that potential drama. But just the thought of dating/being married to someone who is there at both my job and at home gives me hives. AY is right, work can be a space that helps normalize you when things are going sideways. Having personal life at work means the streams are crossing.

      2. Forrest*

        The thought of losing your relationship AND your home space AND your working space all in one fell swoop is just horrendous. Just nowhere to go where you can forget about it!

  67. RagingADHD*

    My question for LW1 would be, why are you scrutinizing this employee more that the past employee who did exactly the same thing (as far as we can tell)?

    It sounds to me like you hired her with a built in bias that mothers are lazy, unproductive, a waste of money, etc, and now expect her to “prove you wrong.” Whereas the other employee had earned an exception as one of the “good ones.”

    Put it another way, if you didn’t think the former employee’s pumping time was your business to track, and no actual problems came of it, then why are you tracking this woman’s pumping time, and looking for a problem?

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      You meant LW2, it seems. LW 1 was the one whose boyfriend had an affair with the intern.

  68. middlemgmt*

    LW2, chiming in to concur with most of the comments- a “total” of 90 minutes is normal or even under. every time i pumped, the pumping itself was a 20 minute session, every 2..5-3 hours. 5 minutes on either side for set-up and cleaning. so 30 minutes each time is basically the bare minimum of what she needs. i actually took 45 minutes 3x per day. now that being said, my company did set up a computer in the pumping room. I took advantage of that and generally worked on something during the 20 minutes i was pumping, but that’s not universally doable. people often need to relax or be in a posture that does not allow for typing.

  69. James*

    LW#2: The part that stuck out at me was that you didn’t do the calculations up front. It sounds like the amount of time was discussed, so the burden is on you to figure out if it’s something you can handle or not. The breast feeding thing is a red herring here; the issue is that YOU flubbed a contract negotiation.

    Accept the hit, and figure out why.

  70. ElleKay*

    Commuting is such a weird topic! I grew up in the MetroNY area and an hour commute is nothing! 2 hours is not even unheard of if you’re actually commuting into midtown NYC.
    But, when I moved to Australia for university, anything more than about 20/25 minutes suddenly was outrageous! I ended up staying with a family friend with a 45 minute bus or rail commute and people were aghast!
    I thought it was great b/c I could get a lot of my reading or homework done on the train and I wasn’t driving (like I would be in the states) but the variation in what people accept as “normal” commute times vary so much!

    In OPs case I would have chatted a bit about the variation in your current commute and why this job’s commute isn’t a concern; if you can swap out public transit when you want a break, etc. It sounds a bit like OP might have just said “Nope, it won’t be a problem” while the managers wanted more reassurance?

  71. Marie*

    LW#2, it’s possible your employee isn’t thrilled either to spend 90 mins/day pumping. I wonder what she would say if you checked in with her, asked how she is doing, and what you could do to support her. If she is experiencing any challenges, are there obstacles you can remove? In response to this question, I asked my boss if I could move from a cubicle to an unused office so I could pump at my desk, thus saving my 30 mins/day and giving time and energy back to my work goals. I’ve also asked for wifi to be added to pumping rooms so I can log in and catch up on emails. I realize you may feel you are already “giving her” a lot – though I would argue what you are “giving her” is part of the compensation package she negotiated at the time of hire, so you’re really just balking at part of her comp you didn’t realize would be as expensive as it is – but a few reasonable accommodations (that don’t impact work) might go a long way toward her sense that she is valued and would likely impact her productivity in a positive way.

  72. Koala dreams*

    I can understand not knowing how long time it takes to pump (it varies), but I don’t understand not having a conversation around billable hours before agreeing. If you offer paid time, it’s implied that the employee won’t be making up the time. There’s only so many hours in a day, especially for new parents. Even if you pay for overtime, few parents would be able to do that. The only way to get the math to work would be if you took other, non-billable work tasks off her plate. Although I guess a new employee won’t have many tasks like that.

  73. The vault*

    I’m really surprised by a lot of the comments in this thread. Saying anything at this point would be awful. Also, we want women to be able to work if they want/need to and be able to not be penalized by having children and not put them at a disadvantage against dads in the workplace.

    I usually love the comments here, but this one feels so icky to me.

    1. rl09*

      Honestly, same. I just came back to work after mat leave and these comments are making me sick to my stomach.

      Moms (especially working moms!) in the US just cannot catch a break. From the moment you get pregnant you get bombarded from literally every medical professional about how “breast is best” and if you don’t breastfeed you’re literally hurting your child. I don’t personally believe this is true, but in the hospital they literally lecture you about how formula-fed babies get more respiratory diseases, are more likely to be obese, are more likely to get cancer, etc. etc. They really lay the guilt on thick.

      So fast forward three months. You are breastfeeding your child because everyone told you that you’d be a bad mom if you don’t breastfeed — but now your employer balks at you having to take the time to pump. (And even if you decide to switch to formula or supplement with formula, you can’t just not pump because you’ve spent the last three months establishing your milk supply so if you miss a pumping session or stop cold turkey you’ll leak, get engorged, get clogged ducts and/or mastitis.)

      So I guess as a new working mom, your options are: (1) stop breastfeeding your kid and just live with the guilt when your pediatrician tells you formula just isn’t as good as breastmilk, or (2) pump at work and hurt your career because your employer is judging you for how long it takes to pump.

      Sometimes I wonder if the “breast is best” campaign was secretly designed to keep women out of the workforce.

  74. Lizy*

    #2 ignore the unbillable hours. how is she doing on the rest of them? productive? Then let it be.

    30 minutes a session is REALLY not that big of a deal, from start to finish. Set up (anywhere from 3-5 minutes), pump (easily 15-20 minutes), finish and clean up (easily 5 minutes), go pee (3-5 minutes), refill water (3-5 minutes) because making milk takes an obnoxious amount of water… so that’s 29-40 minutes a session.

    You also don’t mention her lunch is in all of this, or breaktimes. If you assume she’s pumping during her lunch (1 hour) and not taking “normal” 15-minute breaks, we’re seriously talking about 30 extra minutes a day. I guarantee she’s working harder than some people trying to nickel and dime her pumping sessions…

    You don’t want to be That Jerk who tells a new mom and employee they can’t feed their own child after you agreed to it. Nevermind the fact it’ll add a whole ‘nuther layer of stress and anxiety on her. Just let it go.

  75. J.B.*

    Letter Writer 2: I’m sorry about the time issue. Working in engineering I noticed women at entry level and very few women at mid-levels, and clean cut young men got the opportunities in front of clients. These things are connected.

    Here’s the thing, you hired a woman and agreed to give her the time. That’s a great thing! It’s also temporary. She’s probably frustrated that she can’t focus and is tired now. But you get through it, and what I learned was how to manage my time.

  76. GertietheDino*

    LW3, it’s a concern for all the reasons Allison listed, story time: old job hired a guy who lived at least 60 miles away, we raised the travel concern issue in the interview, but he assured us he was moving closer in like a month. The move never happened and he was epically late most days. He didn’t last long.

  77. RJ*

    LW2, I’ve worked in accounting for over 20 years. Time sheet analysis and hourly billings were two of my specialties. The time expended by your new employee is not remarkable for a new mother. Pumping takes times, especially at the beginning. When doing the preliminary analysis for how much unbillable time she was going to accrue prior to employment, you should have had three scenarios – one on the high end, one on the low (which is what you assumed, based on other employee experiences) and the delta. If your company promotes itself as inclusive and family friendly, asking her to work additional time to cover time you should have covered in this initial analysis is both unfair and extremely shitty. If she is a good worker and has been making her billable time productive and collaborative to your team, 40 hours in a five week period should be no big deal and easy to assume in administrative overhead.

    1. Amtelope*

      If one concern is that billing this much time to general overhead is making an entire department or team look inefficient, I wonder if one thing that would help is a specific timesheet code for “nursing employee breaks” or something similar. That way it’s obvious to anyone who looks at timesheets/billing where this time is being spent, without having to explain it over and over again.

  78. Stef*

    Lw2 – pumping is not a two minute job. Don’t make it any harder for a new mum who’s probably working her balls off, trying to keep everything on target. Also I’d love to add up extended cigarette breaks and general mooching breaks of male employees. Promise you it’s probably longer.

    LW1 – you poor thing. You’ve been pooed on and yet you’re being painted as a problem. Take this by the horns. Tell your manager and escalate as they’re behaving so out of line, it’s unreal. You also need to think what crazy stories the ex and intern are spreading.

  79. RB*

    I don’t understand why, out of the 90 minutes pumping per day, 60 minutes of those wouldn’t be the lunch hour. I understand it may not be feasible or pleasant to eat lunch while you pump (no experience with that) or that the timing might not work out, but couldn’t at least a portion of the 90 minutes be attributed to lunch hour and not overhead?

    1. rl09*

      It’s three, 30-minute pumping sessions. So the lunch hour could replace one session, but not 60-minutes of pumping time. You can’t consolidate pumping sessions like that, unfortunately.

      Your body takes time to produce milk and fill the milk ducts. It takes most women somewhere around 15-45 minutes to drain the milk ducts during a pumping session. Then usually you’d have anywhere between 2-4 hours before the ducts are full again, at which point you would need to pump again. If you don’t pump frequently enough, the ducts can get clogged which can cause serious, painful infections.

    2. rl09*

      Adding on to my previous comment to provide an analogy:

      Milk ducts like your bladder. It would definitely be more efficient to consolidate all your bathroom breaks per day into one, extra-long bathroom break — but it’s not physically possible to just hold your bladder and go once per day.

      1. RB*

        Ha, I love a good analogy. Speaking of consolidating things, I wish more things would lend themselves to consolidation. I would like to just brush my teeth once per week. I would like to put on makeup twice a week (once for the weekday look and once for the weekend look). I would like to bathe maybe twice per week, depending on how much gym time and yard work I’m doing.
        Some people may already be doing this, with the work-from-home going on 16 months now.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Using the lunch break for 1 30-minute session is definitely something OP should have considered. But because they told her, “All your pumping time will be paid” – she doesn’t think to use her lunch break. This could be a compromise that OP could suggest, but it still might not sit well with the employee who is losing time that she didn’t think she was supposed to lose.

      This might have been what the first pumping employee did and just didn’t tell anyone.

  80. Louisa*

    FWIW for both LW 2’s company and anyone else, the US Breastfeeding Coalition (made up of many health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the CDC) has information on their website for both employees and employers on what constitutes a reasonable break as well as other guidance and suggestions for employer policies around pumping.

  81. HereKittyKitty*

    LW2- Just as a heads up, and it doesn’t sound like this will happen but I wanted to say it anyway, when it comes to retaining female employees it’s important not to backtrack on things like this. As an example, my former manager was hassled about the time it took her to breast pump and she ended up jumping ship to another company over it. Then my coworker did as well because she wanted to try for a baby in the next year and didn’t see the company as family-friendly. Then I found another job too, not because I want to be a mother (I don’t), but because I found the behavior so sexist I didn’t feel comfortable working there anymore. It was 3 people in 3 months- literally the whole department. So consider what backtracking would signal to not just the employee, but the other people watching.

  82. Carol*

    LW 2 – 30 minutes for one pump session is really the minimum time expectation, particularly if she’s not using one of the better pumps and/or she’s dealing with any supply issues, which is extremely common when separated from the baby for 40 hours/week. You have to get the contraption out, put it on, get all your bottles together, etc., etc. Then clean everything up when done and store the milk and put yourself back together. And if you shave off any time or miss a session to do work, good luck getting your supply back up the next day. Some women are lucky and only need 2x sessions at work–I needed 4, 2 during the work day and 2 on the drive in and home–and then usually one at night, too.

    Maybe the previous employee was able to be more efficient than this, but honestly, that comes down to aspects of the body no one is in control of such as stress level, hormone fluctuations, etc. etc. And/or a lot of money on expensive equipment. It’s really an enormous task and cutting any corners means rapidly decreasing supply, and there’s very little you have control over that could make the process faster. And yeah, maybe you just didn’t notice because she was an established employee.

    1. Terrysg*

      As well, everyones body is different, some women can pump a lot in 10 mins, I could feed a baby no problem, but I never got a lot when pumping.

      1. Observer*

        The truth is that even someone who can get a lot in 10 minutes is going to have to take some time if they have to pump not at their desk. Because if they have to go to a separate room, then there is no way around transit, set up and clean up. That’s going to add a significant amount of time.

  83. Anonforthis*

    OP 2 – I’m so glad you wrote in and we all have a chance to say that a 30min pumping session 3x a day is completely reasonable and you should expect it to continue for as long as the employee chooses to nurse. This should be written off as a cost of doing business and it would not be cool to say anything at this point. There are some people who can work/bill while pumping, if they have a private office and a mini fridge in their office, but if you’ve already asked her to bill geneeal/admin it’s not really possible to give different guidance at this point. This will require a cultural shift and an adjustment of expectations in the same way we are still fighting to make parental leave seem reasonable to employers. Good on you for being on the right side of history here. PS – I have pumped 3200 hours between two kids while delivering high returns to my employer. Those that don’t make these accommodations lose value and talent.

  84. not that Leia*

    A broader point for the discussion of LW2–it seems like there’s a fallacy that there’s some way of creating a family- or parent- friendly workplace while incurring no financial or operational burden to the company whatsoever. (Speaking about the US.) It is still a worthwhile endeavor for all kinds of long term reasons—engaged employees, diversity of views, etc—but to pretend like it’s not going to cost you anything is a big part of why working parents feel so impossibly squeezed. My last company touted how “supportive” they were to parents, but that actually just meant they let them leave an hour early occasionally as long as they made up the hours later. So all the parents were exhausted from basically working two shifts and were STILL missing out on networking and promotions because they weren’t “available” or “engaged”. This is the same mindset that has women working while pumping (which I did, too) just to offset the perception and reality that child-rearing is time consuming and has an impact on our work life. I think we’d be better off collectively if we were able recognize that yes, supporting parents does have a non-negligible cost, and that is probably better for all of us if not all of that cost is always born by the individual parents.

  85. Mayflower*

    Seconding this – I had “over supply” and yet I couldn’t pump more than half a teaspoon no matter how long or hard I tried. The baby would get a fire hose while the pump would get several drops on a good day. Pumping is super hard!

  86. Raida*

    #2 I think that what should be learnt from this is that in the future with paid pumping time, that this should not be “three times a day” but rather “60 minutes per day”, for example, and time exceeding that would be allowable in work hours but unpaid – and a discussion on whether the staff member wants to work longer to get full pay or work the same total hours per week and take the slight pay cut with the unpaid time in there, both of which disappear as they have less need to pump.

    Something like that, where the maths has been done already. Even if it is actually 90 minutes per day every day, budgeted for a year.

  87. RagingADHD*

    I can’t believe some of these comments. I wonder how many people, parents or not, would think it reasonable if their employer just up and decided to dock their pay by 40 hours in their first 5 weeks on the job, because they “hadn’t realized your compensation package would be so expensive!”

    LW2 and the employee negotiated 3 paid breaks per day, and the employee accepted the job based on those terms. It’s compensation. You don’t get to just do “takesy backsies.”

    I hope to the sky that employee has it in writing.

    1. anonibs*

      Right? Not to mention, it’s a bodily function with so many variables that are out of your control. Imagine if your employer wanted to dock your pay because you have IBS so you spend more time in the bathroom than the average person. Like, “well, I know we agreed you could have paid bathroom breaks, but we didn’t think you’d need to use the bathroom so often!!”

  88. Sarah*

    LW2- If I learned that my boss had written this letter, I would find a new job right away. Your company is not family friendly. When you look at the upper ranks of your company, do you wring your hands and wonder why there are no women?

    A woman who stopped nursing recently

  89. DollarStoreParty*

    The entire pumping thing is temporary – she’ll wean the baby and won’t need to do it anymore, and as the baby moves to food, it’ll become less and less frequent and shorter periods. Also, she won’t be getting much work done if she’s uncomfortably full or has to leave to change clothes due to leakage.

  90. Hank Stevens*

    I was told by my HR department a few years back that “commute questions” were off-limits. It’s up to the candidate to decide and we should not make a hiring or not hiring decision based on where someone lives. I’ve never bothered to check actual laws to see if that line of question is out of bounds.

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